My first blogged festival of the year was Seijin no Hi., a celebration of the coming of age. https://nihongojapango.wordpress.com/2015/01/16/culture-coming-of-age-and-the-kimono/ February the 3rd brings the 2nd festival known as Setsubun which supposedly celebrates the coming of the first day of spring based on the old Lunar calendar.
This seems a little premature as I have just been handed a note saying a major snowfall is expected tomorrow on Feb 6th and school may be cancelled. Yeehahhhh! now there’s a celebration.
The Kanji for setsubun, 節分, does indeed mean the separating of the seasons. If we had to find an equivalent in the western world it might be groundhog day.
It is not a major public holiday as such but there are some fun little rituals held which are usually upheld by families with children or more recently, dogs. They are after all the pseudo child of the new millennium! https://nihongojapango.wordpress.com/2015/01/23/living-in-japan-its-a-dogs-life/
On Setsubun day, the oldest male member of the household dons an oni mask and leaps out scaring the children. An oni is a demon. He is pelted with roasted soya beans and the children chant “oni wa soto, fuku wa uchi” which means demons out good luck in. The demons can represent all sorts of ills from bad fortune to sickness. It’s customary to eat one soya bean for each year of your life plus one for good luck in the coming year. This maybe the reason it is for the kids as these beans are very dry and you wouldn’t want to eat too many!
Fathers seem to be relinquishing the honour of being pelted by beans in favour of the poor unsuspecting family pooch. This may be because a one year in human years is 7 in dog years making Spot the family patriarch. Maybe the father is out to get the dog or the dog is a walking 4 legged garbage disposal unit and will snaffle up all the beans meaning there is no need to vacuum. What ever the reason, poor old Spot is subjected to being dressed up and is bombarded with beans. This could be the market opportunity that Eukunuba has been looking for, Eukunuba dog beans!
Temples and shrines also hold celebrations. Often celebrities and sumo are invited and the events are televised. Must be for the public relations because I cant see the roasted beans filling up those big fellas!
As with any self respecting Japanese festival there is a food linked with it. It the Kanto area they eat a type of fat roll sushi called Ehoumaki 恵方巻, It means the direction of hope. It has become common all over Japan now as the mass marketeers kick into top gear.
My demon butt kicking is done for the year and I am looking forward to a year full of luck. If that doesn’t come about at least I enjoyed a lovely feed of Ehoumaki sushi and a relaxing soak at the hot springs! May all your demons be out and your good luck in. All the best for 2015.
Yoroshiku Onegai shimasu