Shūbun no Hi [秋分の日] – Autumnal Equinox Day
Autumnal Equinox Day in Japan comes around September 23rd, and is one of the Japanese national holidays.
Autumnal Equinox Day is also the middle day of Ohigan [お彼岸], the Buddhist ceremony week. During the week, people visit graves to pay respect to their ancestors.
Japanese term “Autumnal Equinox Day” is Shubun no Hi [秋分の日].
Ohagi & Botamochi – Sweet Rice Cakes
Sweet rice cakes are part of the Autumnal Equinox Day celebrations, apart from eating them, people are also offering the cakes to the altar.
Sweet rice cakes are made from sweet rice (glutinous rice), coated with sweet red beans paste [餡 / an], soy flour [きな粉 / kinako], grinded sesame [すりごま / surigoma] or green seaweed flakes [青のり / aonori].
There are two words used for Sweet rice cakes but their taste is almost identical.
Ohagi is eaten for Autumnal Equinox Day and named after an autumn flower, hagi [bush clover / 萩].
The shape of ohagi is inspired by the shape of bush clover and is covered with chunky sweet red beans paste [粒餡 / tsubuan], as red beans are harvested in autumn.
Botamochi is eaten for Vernal Equinox Day, in March and is named after a spring flower, botan [Peony / 牡丹].
The shape of botamochi is round like peony and is covered with smooth sweet red bean paste [漉し餡 / koshian] without bean skins.