彼岸【Higan (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.

彼岸は、仏教信仰で春分と秋分をそれぞれ中心とする宗教的な一週間を指します。仏教ではこの期間に先祖に会えると考えられ、盆と並んで先祖供養が盛んに行われます。彼岸には先祖の墓参りに行き、墓を掃き清め、墓前に季節の花やおはぎ(御飯をあんでくるんだもの)等の食べ物、線香等を供え、合掌して亡き先祖を偲びます。彼岸の中日は、それぞれ国民の祝日に指定されており、「春分の日」・「秋分の日」と呼ばれています。日本では彼岸は季節の変わり目に当たり、春分を過ぎると急に暖かくなり、秋分を過ぎると急に涼しくなります。

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