彼岸 - the equinoctial week
Higan is the week-long religious period during which Buddhist memorial services are performed. It is held every year in the spring and the autumn. The days in the middle of the week fall respectively on the vernal equinox and the autumnal equinox. Buddhism teaches that people have the opportunity to meet their ancestors both on Bon (the Buddhist All Souls’ Day) and also during the equinoctial weeks. For this reason people perform memorial services for their ancestors throughout the equinoctial weeks. During this week people visit their ancestors’ graves. They sweep and clean the tombs and offer seasonal flowers, incense sticks, and food such as ohagi (rice balls covered with sweet bean paste). Ohagi is the most common food offered during higan. Then people pray while thinking of their deceased ancestors. The days in the middle of the higan weeks are designated as national holidays. Vernal Equinox Day is around March 21st and the Autumnal Equinox Day is around September 23rd. In Japan higan comes when the seasons are changing. The temperature suddenly rises right after the vernal equinox and falls right after the autumnal equinox.