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Autumnal Equinox Day

Autumnal Equinox Day 2018 and 2019

Autumnal Equinox Day is one of the largest fall holidays in Japan.

YearDateDayHoliday
201823 SepSunAutumnal Equinox Day
24 SepMonAutumnal Equinox Holiday
201923 SepMonAutumnal Equinox Day
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In Japanese, Autumnal Equinox Day is called Shubun no Hi. Autumnal Equinox Day celebrates the arrival of fall. Since the weather is often nice on Autumnal Equinox Day, many Japanese people use the holiday as a reason to spend some time outdoors before winter arrives. Autumnal Equinox Day also allows people to reunite with their families after many months of work. While Autumnal Equinox Day is a great holiday for fun and leisure, it is also a time to honor ancestors and deceased relatives. The holiday also has strong ties to Buddhism and Shintoism. Autumnal Equinox Day is celebrated on the day of the fall equinox in September.

History

Autumnal Equinox Day is a very old holiday that dates back to the beginning of Shintoism. Followers of Shinto, the ethnic religion of Japan, observed a holiday known as Shuki Koreisai. Shuki Koreisai was a holiday that honored the lives and spirits of ancestors and past Japanese emperors. While Shuki Koreisai is no longer an official holiday of Japan, many aspects of it have passed on to Shubun no Hi. Shubun no Hi also occurs during Higan, an important time for Japanese Buddhists.

According to Buddhists, Higan is a time when spirits reach Nirvana. Higan always coincides with the changing of seasons. Higan has also been replaced by Shubun no Hi. Shubun no Hi became a public holiday in Japan in 1947. Higan and Shuki Koreisai are not public holidays in Japan because of their religious associations. According to Japan’s current constitution, the Japanese government and religion must be separate. Because of this, Shubun no Hi and other public holidays are secular.

Celebrating Autumnal Equinox Day

Autumnal Equinox Day is associated with many traditions, so people in Japan have many ways to celebrate the holiday.

  • Gravestone Visits

    Many people visit the gravestones of their family members on Autumnal Equinox Day. This tradition stems directly from the Shinto practice of paying respect to deceased emperors and other important figures. Many Japanese people decide to visit family plots on the morning of Shubun no Hi, but trips to cemeteries are also made throughout the day. At the cemetery, people will do whatever they can to improve the appearance of their relative’s plot. On Shubun no Hi, it is common to see people pulling weeds, raking soil, and planting flowers in cemeteries. Once the plot is clean, flowers will be left by the deceased persons’ loved ones or descendants. Some people may also leave an offering of incense and food.

  • Food

    Autumnal Equinox Day is not based on the consumption of food, but people do enjoy some traditional treats during the holiday. One of the most popular Shubun no Hi snacks is botamochi. Botamochi, or ohagi, is a ball of sweet glutinous rice that is covered in sweetened azuki paste. Some chefs also stuff botamochi with sweet fillings. After the botamochi balls are prepared, they are steamed. When cooked correctly, botamachi is chewy and sweet.

  • Temple Festivals

    Since Shubun no Hi has ties to Buddhism and Shintoism, many temples across Japan welcome visitors for celebratory events. The monks at temples can often tell visitors about their religion and the history of Shubun no Hi. At these temple festivals, Japanese people can enjoy botamochi with their family members or friends. Some temples also host classes for making botamochi. Children can also go to temple festivals to create crafts related to Shubun no Hi. These temple festivals are usually free, so it is a good practice to leave a donation of food or money for the monks.

  • Travel

    Many people in Japan use Autumnal Equinox Day as an opportunity to travel and enjoy a short vacation. After visiting family graves, people will go to another city or nature area. The family home is also a common destination for many Japanese people. During Autumnal Equinox Day, traffic is congested and public transportation is full.

  • Family Reunions

    It is common for Japanese people to reconnect with their families on Shubun no Hi. All of the members of a family will often gather at a central location to enjoy a meal and tell stories. Shubun no Hi is a time of happiness, so only positive conversations are welcomed at these family reunions.

  • Visiting Shrines and Temples

    Japan is filled with Shinto shrines that people visit on Autumnal Equinox Day. The Meiji and Heian shrines are among the most popular destinations. Along with these well-known Imperial shrines, Japanese people also visit Inari, Hachiman, and family shrines. Some of Japan’s best temples are located in Tokyo and Kyoto. Tokyo’s Senso-ji Buddhist temple is a popular place that is well-known for its Shubun no Hi festival and interesting architecture.

Autumnal Equinox Day is a holiday that celebrates the fall season and the memories of fallen relatives.