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Equinox Day: a Japanese public holiday, and a bit about Japanese Buddhism

21th of March (in 2014, depends on the year) is Shumbun. What’s that?

In English, it is Spring (Vernal) Equinox Day. There are two days a year when day is exactly as long as night; One is in March and the other is in September. The former is Shumbun and it is considered to be the beginning of spring.

Those two days are the middle day of Higan, which is a traditional event based on Japanese Buddhism in which people pray for ancestors in the heaven. Heaven is believed to be in the west in Buddhism and the sun sets just in west on the two days. The desire for the pure land and the astronomical fact got mixed up among people in the history.

Astronomy was so important in many regions in the world in ancient days, and many events and legends are based on the stars. They are so romantic! Shumbun is one of them in Japan and I’ll write another in July. Today’s people don’t look up to see stars very often, but I think we need some free, meaningless time to do it.

And don’t you think ancient people were so intelligent?

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