Culture & Traditions: September

The topic of September is “KEIRO NO HI” or “Respect-for-the-Aged Day” & “SHUUBUN NO HI” or “Autumnal Equinox Day”

“KEIRO NO HI” is a National Holiday and it’s on September 17, for showing respect and affection for the elderly who have devoted themselves to the society for so many years, and for celebrating their long life. The elderly are invited to entertainments and given nice gifts such as sweater or muffler from their cities, town and village. Some cities and municipalities present them with a cash bonus of about five thousand yen ($50). In the family, granddaughters or grandsons give nice presents to their grandfathers and grandmothers.

“SHUUBUN NO HI” means Autumnal Equinox Day or “Higan” is the equinoctial week. In Buddhist terms, it is the time when people can meet their ancestors. During these weeks in spring (Vernal Equinox) and fall, people pay a respectful visit to their ancestors at their family graves. They tidy up the graves and offer flowers, incense, and food there. “Ohagi” (rice balls covered with sweet bean paste) are the most common food to be eaten on these occasions. This ceremony is said to have been initiated by Prince Shotoku (574-622) during the seventh century, and it seems to have been practiced by all Japanese families, regardless of their religion. As an old saying goes that “No heat or cold lasts over the equinox”. Higan also suggests a change of seasons. The warm season or cold season will begin right after the equinox days.