Autumnal Equinox Day, Japan

Autumnal Equinox Day, Japan

Autumnal Equinox Day, Japan


Celebration Date
23th September
Other Name
Holiday Type
National Holiday


Autumnal Equinox Day (Shubun no Hi) is a public holiday in Japan that usually occurs on September 22 or 23, the date of Southward equinox in Japan Standard Time (autumnal equinox can occur on different dates for different timezones). It's a day not just to mark the changing of seasons but also to pay our respects to our deceased parents, grandparents, and other family members. The months of September, October, November are usually considered the autumn months, but technically speaking, fall is the period between the autumnal equinox and winter solstice.

The autumnal equinox is the day when the sun crosses the equator from the Northern to the Southern Hemisphere. By the modern Gregorian calendar, this date usually falls on September 22 or 23. On this day, the sun rises exactly in the east and sets exactly in the west, and day and night become the same length. From this day on, days begin getting shorter than nights in the Northern Hemisphere.

The Japanese have traditionally called the period around the autumnal and vernal (springtime) equinoxes higan. There's a saying that goes, "both the heat and cold end with higan." Higan lasts for seven days - beginning three days prior to the equinox and ending three days after it. It occurs twice a year, once when the blustery winter temperatures give way to spring and again when the heat subsides and the cool, crisp air of autumn arrives.


Celebrating Autumnal Equinox Day

Autumnal Equinox Day is associated with many traditions, so people in Japan have many ways to celebrate the holiday.

Temple Festivals:

Since Shubun no Hi has ties to Buddhism and Shintoism, many temples across Japan welcome visitors for celebratory events. The monks at temples can often tell visitors about their religion and the history of Shubun no Hi. At these temple festivals, Japanese people can enjoy botamochi with their family members or friends. Some temples also host classes for making botamochi. Children can also go to temple festivals to create crafts related to Shubun no Hi. These temple festivals are usually free, so it is a good practice to leave a donation of food or money for the monks.



Many people in Japan use Autumnal Equinox Day as an opportunity to travel and enjoy a short vacation. After visiting family graves, people will go to another city or nature area. The family home is also a common destination for many Japanese people. During Autumnal Equinox Day, traffic is congested and public transportation is full. 


Gravestone Visits: 

Many people visit the gravestones of their family members on Autumnal Equinox Day. This tradition stems directly from the Shinto practice of paying respect to deceased emperors and other important figures. Many Japanese people decide to visit family plots on the morning of Shubun no Hi, but trips to cemeteries are also made throughout the day. At the cemetery, people will do whatever they can to improve the appearance of their relative’s plot. On Shubun no Hi, it is common to see people pulling weeds, raking soil, and planting flowers in cemeteries. Once the plot is clean, flowers will be left by the deceased persons’ loved ones or descendants. Some people may also leave an offering of incense and food. 



Autumnal Equinox Day is not based on the consumption of food, but people do enjoy some traditional treats during the holiday. One of the most popular Shubun no Hi snacks is botamochi. Botamochi, or ohagi, is a ball of sweet glutinous rice that is covered in sweetened azuki paste. Some chefs also stuff botamochi with sweet fillings. After the botamochi balls are prepared, they are steamed. When cooked correctly, botamachi is chewy and sweet. 



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