The Beginning Autumn Gives Japanese People a Great Excuse to Post to Social Media

Higanbana (Red spider lily, Lycoris radiata)

Higanbana (Red spider lily, Lycoris radiata). Photo by Flickr user resonanced sky. (CC BY-NC 2.0)

September 22 marks the Autumnal equinox and the first day of fall in the Northern Hemisphere. The day is known as Shubun (秋分) and has its origins in the 24 points found in the traditional East Asian lunisolar calendar.

The day holds great significance in Japanese culture, and—in a modern addition to age-old traditions—people upload photos of flowers, food. and pastoral scenes to social media.

Higan is know as Qiufen or the Autumnal equinox in the traditional East Asian lunisolar calendar (二十四節季). Just as with the Vernal equinox that marks the start of spring, the sun rises in the middle of the eastern horizon and sets in the middle of the western horizon. Shubun (秋分, the Autumnal equinox) officially became designated as the day to “venerate the ancestors and mourn the departed” in 1948.

The Autumnal equinox also occurs in the middle of Higan.

In Japan, the equinox falls in the middle of a week-long period known as Higan (お彼岸), which is observed as a Buddhist holiday, and families return to their ancestral homes to visit and clean the graves.

September 22 (Thursday) is the Autumnal Equinox

As we give a prayer to the setting sun, Higan, when we pray for the rebirth of the departed in heaven (極楽浄土, Sukhavati, Amitabha's Pure Land), begins. The period of seven days surrounding the Autumnal equinox is known as O-Higan, when we “pay our respects to the ancestors and remember the departed.”

We provide offerings of ohagi (rice cakes) to our ancestors […] with hagi the flower (Japanese clover).

Higan is heralded each year by the presence of the flowering Higanbana (Red spider lily, Lycoris radiata), which flowers in the week or so around the Autumnal equinox.

And, each autumn, the hashtag #higan (#彼岸) trends on Twitter—the red flowers provide excellent opportunities for amateur photographers

As Higan draws near the Red spider lilies are coming into bloom.

It's September 21 (August 21 on the old Japanese lunisolar calendar). Higanbana (Red spider lily) blooms around the time of Higan. Called “manjushage” (曼珠沙華), it is said to be the “flowering red blossom of the heavens.”

Hello everyone, the Higanbana are already blooming here. This year I get the feeling they're a little early, and it will be Higan soon. Hopefully this will put an end to a hot summer.

Higan coincides with the fall harvest season, so typically fall foods, especially those that feature the newly harvested rice, are eaten.

Ohagi are on the menu for Higan… it's sweet so I saved it for desert, but after I finished everything else I was too full and couldn't eat it!

While warm weather will continue in Japan for at least another month, Higan does promise that the cool days of autumn are not far off. And perhaps for some, the cool weather means cats come in from the cold to cuddle and keep warm:

It's Higan, so perhaps it's time for cats as well?

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