Volume 24, No. 8, October 2, 2000

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the autumnal equinox day
by Maiko Nakano, Lifestyle Editor

Although Shubun-no-hi is a national holiday, a lot of people donít know what this day means.

September 23 is the equinox, the 24-hour period when day and night are the same, the beginning of the fall season. On this day the sun shines on the equator for 24hours. On the next day, days begin to become shorter than nights in the Northern Hemisphere.

In Japanís past, the autumnal equinox was called shuki-koureisai (the autumn festival of the Emperorís spirits). On this day, the emperor worshiped his ancestors by himself.

Today it is called Shubun-no-hi and is a national holiday, the middle day of higan, a seven day period when the people of Japan commemorate their ancestors. Many memorial services take place at temples, and many people visit their familyís graves with offerings of rice cakes called o-hagi, flowers, burning incense sticks, and prayers to comfort the spirits of their ancestors.

Higan is a Buddhist word meaning "I leave this world full of desires and arrive in the utopia, the other side of the river of death." Although Buddhism is common in India and China, these countries have no similar custom.

In August, bon time is when the souls of our ancestors come to visit us. During higan, including the shubun-no-hi, itís our turn to visit them.



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