豆まき mamemaki—bean throwing

Yesterday was Setsubun, a festival that marks the change of season from winter to spring.

The most famous tradition associated with Setsubun is mamemaki, or bean-throwing. One member of the family (often the father) plays the role of an oni, or demon, and the other people throw beans at the oni and shout “oni wa soto! fuku wa uchi!” meaning “demons out! luck in!”

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Another tradition is to eat 恵方巻 ehoumaki, a fat sushi roll, while facing in the year’s favourable direction. Usually maki sushi rolls are cut into bite-size pieces about an inch long, but not this one.

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This year the favourable direction was 南南東 south-south-east. So I stood in the garden and faced south-south-east while munching the ehoumaki.

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I guess the idea is that you’re supposed to eat the whole thing without stopping, but it’s pretty huge and I don’t like to eat fast, so I just enjoyed it at my own pace. Anyway it was delicious.

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After lunch we drove to a place in Fukai that was having a Setsubun festival, where we met this friendly oni. He seemed pretty cheerful for someone whose job for the day was to be repeatedly pelted with beans.

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The area was a bit too crowded for comfort, so we escaped and went for a walk around a nearby pond, where we saw turtles…

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…and ducks…

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…and enjoyed the unseasonal warm sunny weather.

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This building in Fukai looks like a cathedral, but it’s a fake—it’s a wedding venue.

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In the evening, we went to a Setsubun service at Nunose shrine, which I will write about in a separate post.

Later, at home, it was my turn to be the oni.

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Not very scary, apparently.

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We tried putting oni masks on the dogs, but they didn’t tolerate it for long.

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So we hung the oni masks on the back fence and threw beans, and shouted.

Oni wa soto! fuku wa uchi!

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Then each person eats the number of beans of their age.

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Our local Family Mart was selling a sponge cake roll designed to look like ehoumaki. It was full of fruit—raspberries, apple, pineapple—and really delicious with a big mug of hot chocolate at the end of an eventful day. Amazing that they put the effort into creating something like that, just for one day a year.DSCN4861

Note on the word of the day:

節分 setsubun means “season division”. Historically, there were four setsubun in the year, one at the start of each season. But nowadays it only refers to the Spring Setsubun, the day before the start of 立春 risshun, the first day of spring.

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