Spring Equinox: 春分の日

春分 shunbun is Spring equinox. It is the division of seasons.

In Okinawa, it is typically different than mainland Japan, just like shuubun 秋分 (Autumn equinox) is. While in the rest of Japan it may be more typical to visit hometowns and family graves, in Okinawa it is usually just observed at home at the butsudan (buddhist altar), with the typical special Okinawa foods used in most celebrations. The season of shiimii しーみー is just around the corner and it is the customary time to visit, clean and leave offerings at the graves then.

Spring equinox is also part of haru-no-higan 春の彼岸, which just refers to Spring equinox week. (O)higan literally means “the other shore,” meaning the other side of the river which divides the living from the deceased in the afterlife according to Buddhist tradition.

At any rate, it will be a public holiday for me, so I can hopefully enjoy the day off. And likely my sensei will bring in the leftover treats from his family’s celebration.

Urizun: うりずん

The season of urizun in Okinawa is the time of year between Spring and the rainy season; approximately in April (third month of the lunar calendar). It means “early summer.” It is just cool enough out, before the summer heat comes but after the winter chill has left. Urizun season is named after the urizun bean, which is a light green color, reminiscent of the fresh green sprouting leaves of spring.

The shell ginger plant, さんにん sannin in Okinawan and 月桃 gettou in Japanese, is very much a symbol of urizun. Perhaps because this is the time of year it blooms and you can see the beautiful flowers. The 2nd day of the 3rd month in the lunar calendar is sannin-no-hi サンニンの日, Sannin day. This is because “san” is 3 and “ni” is 2 in Japanese; together this san-ni sounds close to the word sannin. Sannin is also used in Okinawa sweets such as muuchii.

I visited a Japanese soba restaurant in Naha (not far from Kokusai-dori), called Minosaku 美濃作 that serves noodles made from sannin. So very delicious. I talked to the owner’s wife in Japanese, and she was so happy she gave me a postcard she designed for the shop. Now, I always crave their noodles during the spring to summer transition…

Minosaku 美濃作 address: 3 Chome-8-2 Kumoji, Naha, Okinawa Prefecture 900-0015