春分の日 [Shunbun no hi] : A Celebration of the Spring Equinox
"a day when the sun crosses the equator causing night and day to be equal in length."
Every year the Vernal Equinox is celebrated as a National public holiday in Japan (unless it falls on a Saturday and then too bad no day off for you).
It is dedicated as the First Official Day of Spring and marks the end of Winter in the Northern Hemisphere. (Thanks Goodness!)
It falls on either the 20th or 21st of March each year.
With its origins in Shinto tradition, Shunbun no Hi (pronounced shoon-boon-no-hee) is a day to honour nature and care for all living things. It is also a day to remember ancestors by visiting shrines and praying for a bountiful harvest. In Japan, visits are made to the family grave, cleaning it and offering flowers and incense to console ancestral spirits.
It is also celebrated with the eating of special dango (rice cakes) called ohagi botamochi.
The annual spring holiday season which begins on Shunbun no hi lasts for approximately 16-days until April 5 (the start of Japan’s fiscal year). This is also the time when the school year ends and a new school year begins with graduates moving on to new schools and starting new chapters in their lives. Persons who work in the government or larger corporations might experience job transfers as well.
Cherry Blossoms [桜]
During this period, Japan’s sakura [桜] -- cherry blossoms -- start blooming in many parts of the country. People generally take this opportunity to travel all around the country to view the cherry blossoms or to have flower viewing picnics called hanami [花見] with friends and loved ones (weather permitting).