Spring equinox (haru higan)

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Spring equinox, vernal equinox (haru higan)

***** Location: Japan
***** Season: Mid-Spring
***** Category: Season


Spring Equinox, haru higan, 春彼岸
"beyond the border of this world, the other side of the shore"
One week around Spring Equinox (shunbun)

Originally a traditional Buddhist holiday, this day is set aside to appreciate nature and show love for all living things.

................... Other KIGO in this context

"middle day", chuunichi 中日(ちゅうにち
the middle day of the seven higan-days according to the Asian Lunar Calendar
"day of the 10 000 lights" mandoo bi 万燈日(まんどうび)
..... jishoo 時正(じしょう)

equinox ceremony, higan-e 彼岸会(ひがんえ)
visiting a temple or shrine at equinox, higan mairi

"first day of the equinox period", higan taroo

start of higan, iri higan 入り彼岸(いりひがん), saki higan さき彼岸(さきひがん), sode higan 初手彼岸(そてひがん)

last day of the equinox period, shimai higan
higan barai 彼岸ばらい(ひがんばらい)

dumplings eaten at equinox, higan dango

temple with equinox celebrations, higan dera

equinox ceremony group, higan koo 彼岸講(ひがんこう)

before equinox, higan mae 彼岸前(ひがんまえ)
after equinox, higan sugi 彼岸過(ひがんすぎ)

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boat for the equionx ceremony, higanbune

road walked at equinox, higan michi 彼岸道(ひがんみち)
your appearance at the equinox, higan sugata


observance kigo for mid-spring

hi mukae, himukae 日迎え (ひむかえ) "welcoming the sun"
..... hi okuri 日送り(ひおくり)"saying good bye to the sun"
..... hi no tomo 日の伴(ひのとも)"company of the sun" (Tango)

Prayaing to the sun.

On the middle day of the equinox holidays or on a suitable day, it was custom to go walk around, enjoy one's shadow, pray at temples and shrines and to pray for good fortune.

In the morning it means turning east "welcoming the sun", in the evening, turning west, it was "saying good bye to the sun".

During the day people visited friends for a snack, talk and drink.
A custom popular in Western Japan.

In Tango, people walked in the fields and forests to enjoy the sun and their shadows.

shigonin no shoojo hi mukae kiribatake

four, five young girls
welcoming the sun
at the paulownia plantation

Okai Shoji (Shooji) 岡井省ニ (1925 - 2001)


Food offerings for the Spring equinox


For more details on the equinox see
Autumn Equinox (aki higan)      


Vernal Equinox
is one of the most traditional Japanese National Holidays. These holidays seem to have a double origin. One is the celebration of seasonal change typical of an agricultural society: this is the day when the day-time and the night-time are equal length. The actual date of the Vernal Equinox day may change from year to year due to leap year. Based on the Buddhist teaching, this Vernal Equinox is also called Higan no Chu-Nichi, as is Autumn Equinox on September 23rd.

Many Japanese visit their family tombs on this day in the middle of the week of Higan to pay their respects to their ancestors. People weed their family tombs, and leave flowers, incense and ohagi (sweet rice balls covered with red bean paste). It is tradition that ancestors' spirits prefer round food!
At Tama Bochi (Tama Cemetery), one of the largest cemeteries in the Tokyo area, we often experience heavy traffic on trains and highways on this day. Japanese consider this period the changing of the season, because it is usually around Higan that the cold front hanging over the Japanese islands weakens, and the weather changes to spring.
Thus we have a saying "Atsusa samusa mo Higan made" ("Heat and cold last until Higan").

Worldwide use

North America

The first day of Spring, which, in northern New Hampshire, meant temps in the '20s, high winds and snow ass-deep on a tall Indian.
No green grass or crocuses, but plenty of deer to be seen.

deer forage amid
blowing snow

Happy Haiku Forum, March 2008

Things found on the way

. higanjishi, higan shishi 彼岸獅子 .
lion dancers at the solstice


higan made to wa moosedomo samusa kana

"Fair weather by spring's equinox"
so they say...

by Issa, 1823

Winter was long in Issa's snowy, mountainous province. Shinji Ogawa notes that there is a Japanese proverb which states, "Hot or cold only lasts till an equinox." In Issa痴 province of Shinano, present-day Nagano Prefecture, this saying doesn't at all hold true. Literally, Issa is saying, "Only until the spring equinox [will the cold weather last], they say...[and yet] it's cold!" My rather free translation attempts to evoke Issa's emotion and humor.

Tr. David Lanoue

....................Comment from Gabi Greve

In my area in Okayama, Japan, they say as we learned above

atsusa mo samusa mo o-higan made

the heat and the cold only last until higan ...

so my first line of the above haiku would probably be (also judgeing from personal experience in the old Japanese farmhouse here in my mountains) :

cold only until spring equinox
or so they say -
and yet, it is COLD !


vernal equinox -
the rising moon is lit
by the setting sun

Origa / Olga Hooper, USA, 2008
Look at her photos and read more haiku by Origa's friends here.


a lone crow
pensive on its perch
spring equinox

bandit william sorlien
March 2010


spring equinox -
sunshine brings about
sprouts of daffodils

- Shared by Hideo Suzuki
Joys of Japan, March 2012


spring equinox
the clothesline covered
with spiderwebs

Ella Wagemakers


vernal equinox
my wife helps me to get on
compression stockings

- Shared by Ralf Bröker (fb 2013) -

Related words

observance kigo for mid-spring

Dosha Kaji Hoo-E 土砂加持法会
memorial service to prevent natural disasters

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Held at temples of esoteric Shingon Buddhism to pray for the victims of mudslides in the past year and pray for protection.
This will also help souls who suffer in hell to find their way back to heaven. This ceremony was especially popular in the Kamakura period and saint Myo-e 明恵上人practised it often.
Now also performed from October 3 to 6.
Other temples say prayers for seven days and nights.


hoo-e 法会 "gathering for the Buddhist Dharma"

ekoo girei 回向儀礼  merrit-transfer rite
kitoo girei 祈祷儀礼 prayer rite
tsuizen kuyoo 追善供養 merrit-transfer rite
shudoo girei 主導儀礼 self-disciplinary rite

. Koomyoo Shingon-E 光明真言会
Ceremony of the Komyo Mantra .

Temple Saidai-Ji, Nara
Dosha Kaji rituals in October


土砂吐 a kind of weir to prevent mud and small stones flowing into a canal. Combined with a sluice, water gate (suimon 水門).
This used to be very important to provide a constant amount of clean water to the rice paddies.
Some old weirs of this kind are still in use for the special fields which produce rice as food offerings for a Shinto shrine.

. . . CLICK here for Photos !


***** . Shunki kooreisai 春季皇霊祭 (しゅんきこうれいさい)
spring commemoration for the Imperial Spirits .

Imperial Court Ceremony at the Spring Equinox

***** Autumn Equinox (aki higan)    Japan
More info about the Japanese celebrations

***** Light offerings afloat (tooroo nagashi) (05)

. . . . SPRING
the complete SAIJIKI



. Gabi Greve said...


Spring Eqinox at Tsuboi Town, Japan 2007
by Gabi Greve


. Gabi Greve said...

the dragon climbing toward heaven -
the grottoes of DunHuang
almost covered by sand

ryuu ten ni noboru
dragon climbing to heaven, on the day of the spring equinox !


Ella Wagemakers said...

autumn equinox
the same rain now
as when I was born

autumn equinox
I look for the recipe
for pumpkin soup

Anonymous said...

Egg Olympics on Spring Equinox
by Carmela Tal Baron.mov



Vernal equinox 2012: Spring -- time to stand a raw egg on its end



Gabi Greve - Buson said...

Yosa Buson

myoobu yori botamochi tabasu higan kana

from a court lady
I get some Botamochi -
spring equinox

MORE about
myoobu and kitsune foxes . . .

Gabi Greve said...

a legend from Gunma 勢多郡 Seta district 横野村 Yokono mura

Go senzo sama ご先祖様 the ancestors
Once a Rokubu got lost on the way and an old couple took him in for the night. Grandfather said:
"Today is the middle day of higan 彼岸 the equinox celebrations. Our children will certainly come and bring some food and offerings." But nobody came and grandfather went to have a look. When he came back he said:
"I was quite furious, so I took their children and threw tham in the fire!"
The Rokubu thought this was quite strange, but said nothing and went to sleep. When he woke up next morning, he realized he had been sleeping on a family grave.
When he found the village and the home of the family, he heard that one child had been badly burned last night.
This was the punishment for not giving offerings to the ancestors.
more than 100 legends to explore