Shunbun no Hi

Spring is springing!

It is well known that Japan’s traditional culture is deeply entwined with the seasons and with nature. It is no surprise then that there is a national holiday, Shunbun no Hi, to celebrate the spring equinox, around the 20th / 21st of March.

Indeed, this used to be a Shinto festival celebrating renewal through the cycle of the seasons. After the second world war, General MacArthur forced a change of status of the festival in his drive to separate Shinto and the state, recasting it as a secular holiday.

Nevertheless, a great many people still observe the occasion as a time to remember the departed, either by inviting priests to their homes to conduct memorials, or through visiting shrines.

In the spirit of renewal, you might spring-clean your house, or start a new job or a new project — in fact this time of year marks the start of the school year and induction time for new employees in Japan’s famous corporations. As nature shakes off the winter and refreshes itself, so does Japanese society.

If you are on a Japan cultural tour, you might be able to catch a special event at one of Japan’s many shrines and temples.

For most of us, Vernal Equinox Day (as it is known in its prosaic English translation) is a welcome national holiday and a chance to get out to some of Japan’s renowned cultural sites for some sightseeing and to soak up some history.

Spring tours are a favourite time for enjoying Japan’s charms as the weather is at its best, the trees are looking vibrant in their new green. Indeed, this holiday introduces Japan’s favourite time of year when cherry blossom turns the country pink and the population sits out under the trees for picnics.