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Newsletter: Delivery Of Japan's Seasonal Tradition

Delivered on September 30, 2014
Delivery Of Japan's Seasonal Tradition [Issue 35] September 30, 2014

Delivery Of Japan's Seasonal Tradition [Issue 35]
September 30, 2014
Japanese Traditional Culture Promotion & Development Organization


1. Seasonal Event:
The turning point of seasons: "Ohigan"

2. News from JTCO:
New article released!
Omiya Dance, Ikkanbari Coating

:: 1. Seasonal Event

The turning point of seasons: "Ohigan"

Around the 20th of September, Japanese people use an idiom "Atsusa
Samusa mo Higan made" to describe the end of a long heat wave in
summer. This proverb means "No heat nor cold lasts over the equinox".

"彼岸 Higan (the opposite bank)" means Buddhahood, the world of
enlightenment. It is originally from a Sanskrit language "羅蜜多
Paramita" and translated into the Chinese word "到彼岸 Touhigan
(getting to the opposite bank)" then abbreviated into "Higan".
The antonym is "此岸 Shigan" which means this side of bank,
the world of earthy desires.

"彼岸 Higan", which is a Japanese own custom, apparently originated
from "日願 Higan" which means the sun worship, used among Japanese
farmers as a religious word. The spring equinox and the autumnal
equinox have been very important seasonal turning points for the
ancient Japanese heliolatry, on which the lengths of the day and
night become the same and the sun sets in the due west. In Buddhism,
the land of Perfect Bliss exists in the west. This leads to one
theory that Higan started as a belief that on the spring equinox day
or the autumnal equinox day, if you follow the direction which sun
shows towards west, you will definitely reach to the land of Perfect

Until quite recent years, in some local areas, people kept a custom
in which they worship the sunrise and sunset and enshrined the sun
on the Higan day. In other areas, there had been a custom called
"Konnichisanmukae", in which people left house with a pack lunch in
the morning for the east where the sun rises, then came back in the
evening from the west where the sun goes down.

The spring equinox is the time of planting, and the autumnal equinox
is the time of harvest. Therefore Higan also seems to be a farming
event which means farmer's prayers for their ancestors for the heavy
crop and their appreciation of the harvest.

"Houe", meetings of monks and parishioners on the spring and the
autumnal equinox day, started in the Heian period (8-12c). The
current Higan custom, to visit ancestor's graveyard, seems to have
started in the Edo period (17-19c). Since then, on the spring equinox
day, people eat "Botamochi (named after Botan, tree peony, a spring
flower)" which is a rice cake wrapped by sweet azuki bean paste.
"Ohagi (named after Hagi, bush clover, an autumn flower)" which is
almost the same sweet but has a different name, is eaten on the
autumnal equinox day. The azuki beans' red colour has been believed
to have the power to purge evil spirits, thus people have made this
"Botamochi" and "Ohagi" as an offering for their ancestors.

Do you have any custom to visit someone's graveyard as a seasonal
event in your country?

Translation: Hitomi Kochi, reviewed by Noriko Osaka

:: 2. News from JTCO

New article released!:

Omiya Odori: Omiya Dance [Okayama Pref.]
This dance is a bon festival dance performed during the bon holiday
period in August every year and has been passed down in the Hiruzen
area since ancient times.

Translation: Tomoe Ukida, reviewed by Catherine Newman

Ikkanbari: Ikkanbari Coating [Kagawa Pref.]
This work is made by layering Japanese paper and the astringent
juice of the persimmon. The basic way of making Japanese Honshibori
Ikkanbari is to paste Japanese paper and paint the persimmon juice
on top of a mold. Ikkanbari has various merits and features.

Translation: Tomoe Ukida, reviewed by Catherine Newman

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Development Organization (JTCO)- All Rights Reserved.

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