Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Higan in Japan, (visited our graveyards)

(posted; Japanese culture page)
Today we visited our graveyards (husband-side and my-side) 
Vernal Equinox and Fall Equinox is our spiritually important traditional National Holidays. Seven day period during these Equinox is called "Higan" in Japan. 
Quite;  Higan literally translates as “the other shore”  and it refers to the belief that there is a river between this life and the next.  In Buddhism, this is a frequent metaphor for parting this shore of ignorance, hatred and greed to the other shore of nirvana, peace and so on. 

We have 2 origins for these holidays;

*One; is the celebration of seasonal change typical of an agricultural society. We have a saying "Atsusa samusa mo Higan made" ("Heat and cold last until Higan").

*The other; which is based on the Buddhist teaching, this Vernal and Fall Equinox fall in the middle of higan and  also called "Higan no Chu-Nichi" in Japanese. We visit our family tombs during these seven days to pay our respects to our ancestors, as we believe the ancestors spirits are here in this world crossing that river which separates us.  

I visited my father at his old-people's home and after that stopped by his empty house. Whenever I see mom and bro's pictures up on the  family alter, I cannot help but get slightly teary, hehe.  Then headed our grave yards (three places). We weeded  around the tombs, and left flowers, lit the incense. 
We traditionally put "ohagi" (sweet rice balls covered with red bean paste) to our altar or grave.  I reminisce my mother used to make lots of ohagi, for me and my brother, our favorite. It is tradition that ancestors' spirits prefer round food. I had no time to make them today, so I bought ready-made ones and enjoyed them.

I saw field mustard blossomed from place to place while driving to our graveyard;


  1. Hi dear Miyako. Looks as if I am the first one here today! That mustard blossom is very pretty. It is good that you honour the ones that have gone before. "parting this shore of ignorance, hatred and greed to the other shore of nirvana, peace and so on." Isn't that a lovely thought, and I'm sure it's true. Blessings to you dear friend.

  2. What a lovely, poetic post, my dear friend Miyako. I so enjoyed learning about this. I think it is a wonderful thing to honor your ancestors in such thoughtful ways. I wish we had more of that in the west. As always, this was a wonderfully educational and informative post, my friend! Have a wonderful day~

  3. Dearest Miyako,

    Another interesting read about some more in-depth explanation of your rituals. When I was visiting Japan it was also the Obon festival, where the ancestral graves get visited too.
    Love to you and thanks for sharing this insight dear friend!


  4. Such a lovely post today.
    You have taught many of us some wonderful traditions of your country. Thank you for sharing with us. I wish I could visit sometime.

  5. Hello Orchid...Stopping in to say that I awarded your blog the Liebster Blog Award! The award button can be retrieved from my blog so that you can proudly display it!
    My wish is the award will help to grow your following.

  6. What a very beautiful tradition to honor your ancestors.

  7. How beautiful your traditions are, Orchid. I'm sorry for your tears and missing your loved ones and how it used to be. Dear Orchid. May your days ahead be filled with love and peace.

    Like Shelly, I also wish our culture had more traditions and rituals like yours. I also believe in "the other shore". One day we will live in a land of continual peace and love. Blessings be on you.

  8. Dear Miyako,
    I always learn something new every time I am visiting your blog. Thank you so much for sharing. We will always miss our loved ones that has passed away. Hope your dad was feeling good today. Have a lovely day my friend! Big hugs x


  9. Miyako, this is such a beautiful custom and ritual. The Buddhist teachings are so profound and wonderful. My sister studies Buddhism and has often shared the wisdom with me and given me much to think about.

    I miss my mother as well and love to think of her "crossing that river which separates us". So elegantly said. Blessings to you.

  10. dear ,sweet Miyako-san!
    i am busy catching up.
    your culture has so many beautiful traditions. Your culture's respect for older people and ancestors is something I admire so much. it seems like so many people don't take the time to properly honor them. We are part of our past..it is part of what makes us who we are..and our older family members have so much wisdom!!!
    thanks for sharing my friend!