Vernal Equinox Day 春分の日

Photo: teien_off

Happy Vernal Equinox Day (春分の日, shunbun no hi)!

Congratulations, we can now start enjoying days that will be longer than the nights, which means that if you’re still at work when it gets dark, you’re working too late.  As it so happens, this year Vernal Equinox Day is on a Sunday, so Monday will be a substitute holiday.

But why do we get this day off?  Well, before 1948 this day was a holiday celebrated by the imperial family, called shunki kourei-sai (春季皇霊祭), during which they would honor their ancestors.  However, in 1948 the government decided to make the date a public holiday and gave it a new name, shunbun no hi (春分の日). Vernal Equinox Day is a day to celebrate nature and living things.

Perhaps more importantly, Vernal Equinox Day occurs during higan (

彼岸), a week-long period in which many Buddhist services are performed.  Many people visit their ancestors’ graves, purify the gravestone by pouring water over it, pray for the souls of the departed, and burn incense.

And just for fun, here’s some related vocabulary:

gravestone (boseki, 墓石)

incense (senkou, 線香)

water pail (mizuoke, 水桶)

ladle (hishaku, 柄杓)

Now we can all walk away feeling better educated.  Enjoy your day off!


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