Risshun, The First Day of Spring

Ume Tree Blossoms, Risshun

Ume Tree Blossoms // photo by ptrktn

Risshun: The First Day of Spring in Japan

In Japan, Risshun is the end of winter and the first day of spring. On top of that, it is around the start of the new year on the old Japanese lunisolar calendar, right in between winter solstice and vernal equinox. This holiday period typically starts on February 4 or 5 and ends on Usui, the day in the middle of the New Year month on the old Japanese calendar, around February 19. Also, the day before Risshun is called Setsubun, which is celebrated with bean-throwing, good luck charms, and ehoumaki sushi.

Ume (plum) trees begin to bloom around this time, and the weather starts to warm up.

Risshun Traditions

While Risshun isn’t as celebrated as Setsubun, there are some rituals and activities enacted at the beginning of Risshun.

Early morning, Zen Buddhist Temples will sometimes paste a paper on the entrance gate saying, “Risshun Daikichi.” This phrase means, “Beginning of Spring, Excellent Luck.” Some private households will also post this phrase at the northeastern part of their house, which is said to be the unlucky part of the house.

If you write the Japanese phrase “Risshun Daikichi” vertically, it is bilaterially symmetrical. This feature is said to ward off disaster for a year.

One more tradition is the making and drinking of Risshun Asashibori, a type of sake (Japanese rice wine). This tradition does not seem very widespread; it was started by the Nippon Meimon Sake Association in 1998.

Risshun Asashibori is made by sake breweries all over the country. The sake is brewed starting on the evening of Setsubun and then taken out the next morning on Risshun. Sake brewery workers from all over the country come together on the to label the bottled wine with the words “Daikichi,” meaning “Good luck.” The sake is then shipped to those who placed orders previously and is to be enjoyed the evening of Risshun with family.

Will you be doing anything for the first day of spring this year?

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