The Vernal Equinox occurs around March 20/21 on the Japanese calendar. It is also known as Spring Equinox or, in Japanese, Shunbun no Hi.
Shunbun no Hi is the day in spring when there are twelve hours of darkness and twelve hours of light. Special services and events are held at Buddhist temples in Tokyo and Japan.
Origins of Vernal Equinox
The original celebration of Spring Equinox dates back to the eighth century and was known as Shunki Korei-sai.
It was widely recognized by the Imperial family who would honor and worship their Imperial ancestors.
During the period of the Meiji Government, the date was finally set as a national holiday and, as with Autumn Equinox day, a seven day period known as "higan" was observed.
In 1948, the new name Shunbun no Hi was adopted. During "higan", families remember those who have passed away and visit family graves bringing food and other items to give sustenance to their ancestors.
The End of Winter
The Vernal Equinox is welcomed across Japan as it marks the end of winter and the start of warmer Tokyo weather. Spring is a great time to visit Tokyo. The humidity of summer has not yet arrived and the days are fresh and full of new life.
Spring Equinox also signals that the cherry blossom festival is just around the corner. It starts in the south of Japan and then gradually moves north in a band of pink across the country.
If you happen to be here a little before the cherry blossoms bloom, however, don't think you've missed the flowers.
Before the sakura steals the show, the plum blossoms set the stage. Slightly darker in color, they are found on street corners, in Tokyo parks, and lining pathways all around the city. In their own right they are a sight to see.