Spring Equinox Japan

March 20 or 21 is Shunbun no Hi, or Vernal Equinox Day,

A day when the sun crosses the equator making night and day equal in length. It's a national holiday in Japan, a day to commune with nature and to show our affection for all living things.

The seven-day period starting three days before Vernal Equinox Day and ending three days after is called O
higan. Higan, which also occurs around Autumnal Equinox Day, is - along with New Year and the O bon festival in the summer - a time when we pay our respects to ancestors. Visits are made to the family grave, cleaning it and offering flowers and incense to console ancestral spirits.


The holiday was originally a time to visit loved ones' grave sites and pay homage to the ancestors. The Japanese would also take the time to renew their lives by cleaning their homes and making life changes such as starting or finishing school or a new hobby. Today Shunbun no Hi is a national holiday and the majority of Japanese will have the day off work to celebrate with their families. Many people will return to their homes they originally come from to spend the day with their families. The day is celebrated to bring in the spring season and to appreciate the nature blooming after a long winter. Some people will still visit their loved ones' grave sites, sweep the gravestone clear of debris, and often leave offerings of food or fresh cut flowers. The holiday is also special to farmers and agriculturalists as a day to pray for good luck and fortune for the crops they may grow in the upcoming season.


Following Vernal Equinox Day, days gradually get longer and nights shorter. There's an old saying that the chill of winter finally disappears after Shunbun no Hi, and temperatures do get higher from around this time. Cherry blossoms - the most popular symbol of spring in Japan - begin to bloom, first in the south and then in the colder parts of the country in the north.