Friday, March 21, 2008
Shunbun No Hi (Vernal Equinox)
On this day, day and night are equal in length as the sun crosses directly above the equator. This day was established as a national holiday in Japan in 1948. Officially the day is supposed to be for the admiration of nature and the love of living things. On this day the Japanese visit the graves of their ancestors. The reason they visit their ancestors on this day is because it is according to Buddhist belief on this day the dead can cross the river leading to eternal paradise. This is a Buddhist religious week called Higan (literal translation is other shore). There is an idea that there is a river marking the division of this life from the world of salvation. This river is full of illusion, passion, and sorrow, and only by crossing to the other shore can one gain enlightenment and enter nirvana. It is said that the Buddha appears on earth to save stray souls and help them make the crossing on this day (also in September on the other equinox).
There is a saying in Japan that no winter cold lingers past this day.
The river Ranma, Kuno, and Ryoga see when they nearly die from the terrible noodles in volume 31 is the River Sanzu (The mentioned river between this world and the next). It is translated to the Styx from Greek mythology (which is also a river between the living and the dead) because it is better known to Westerners.