Vernal Equinox Day (Shunbun no hi-Japan)

Vernal Equinox Day is a public holiday in Japan that occurs on the date of the Northward equinox in Japan Standard Time (the vernal equinox can occur on different dates in different timezones), usually March 20 or 21. The date of the holiday is not officially declared until February of the previous year, due to the need for recent astronomical measurements.Vernal Equinox Day became a public holiday in 1948. Prior to that it was the
date of Shunki koreisai, an event relating to Shintoism. Like other Japanese holidays, this holiday was repackaged as a non-religious holiday for the sake of separation of religion and state in Japan's postwar constitution.

"Shunbun" is written with a combination of the kanji characters for "spring" and "to divide". The seven-day period, including the three days immediately before and after "Shunbun no hi," is called the spring equinoctial week (higan). There is an old saying; "Atsusa samusa mo higan made," which means that higan is a boundary marking the end of summer heat or winter coldness.

In Japan, the Vernal Equinox is a national holiday, and a very busy time. Up until 1948 the Japanese celebrated a holiday called Shunki korei-sai, an imperial festival where the ancestors of the Japanese were worshipped and
celebrated. After 1948 this holiday became known as Shunbun no Hi, and was designated as a day when the Japanese would celebrate nature and all things living. However, even though the meaning of the holiday has officially been changed, many Japanese people take time on this day to visit their family tombs and to pay respects to their ancestors. These family tombs are weeded and cared for, and flowers, incense and ohagi (sweet rice balls – the spirits of the ancestors are said to prefer round foods) are left at the tombs.
Traffic in Tokyo is particularly heavy as many people visit the expansive Tama Bochi (Tama Cemetery) during this time.

Meanwhile, Japanese Buddhists are celebrating this auspicious day as well, as they observe the holiday of Higan.