Posted on Wednesday, February 03, 2010 | 0 comments

  Today is Setsubun here in Japan! 'What is Setsubun??' you're probably asking if you don't happen to reside here. Setsubun is kind of like Groundhog Day in the US...only nobody here pulls out some burrowing overweight varmint and holds it up to the sun. No, instead they throw roasted soy beans at demons! Yep, you got it. A holiday that's actually stranger than Groundhog Day!
 'Setsubun' is defined as the day before each season begins, but for some reason it's only celebrated before the start of spring here. In accordance with the old calendar, it was thought of as a kind of New Year's Eve, so the bean throwing was meant to get rid of last year's evil/bad luck and also to keep away evil for the year to come.
 Usually, the beans are either thrown outside or at someone wearing a demon (oni) mask, while everyone else yells 'Oni wa soto! Fuku wa uchi!' which basically means 'Demons go out! Good luck come in!'

  You're also supposed to eat the beans (the ones that don't get thrown, of course). You should eat one bean for each year of your age, and sometimes people eat one more for luck. 
 Recently, eating ehomaki ('lucky direction sushi roll') on this day has also become popular across the country, too. I guess it originated in the Kansai region, but nowadays you can find ehomaki at any grocery or convenience store on Setsubun. To eat ehomaki properly, it should be consumed uncut (these things are HUGE!) while facing the lucky compass direction of the year, which changes according to the yearly zodiac symbol. Don't ask me how you figure out which direction is lucky for which year; I'm sure there's a publication on it somewhere, though. Oh, and a student told me that you shouldn't speak to anyone while eating it. What happens if you do, she wasn't sure, though. Maybe the demon comes after you??

                                             Ehomaki...these things are huge!

                          As big as my head!

  We went all out for Setsubun this year: ehomaki, demon mask, roasted soy beans, you name it. Although I have to admit that we talked a lot while eating the ehomaki, and we didn't really try to point it in any certain direction. And no, we didn't see any demons (besides our resident black and white furball, that is).

   Setsubun Loot: demon mask, roasted soy beans, demon manju, and a Setsubun KitKat

Wasabi has an odd obsession with wrapped candy. There are now puncture wounds in the Setsubun KitKat

As for throwing the beans...we ended up throwing them at Wasabi, for the most part. She's certainly enough of a little devil most of the time to qualify as a demon, and she thoroughly enjoyed chasing them across the floor, too!

                     Look carefully and you can see the beans bouncing off her

                     She knows how to perfectly time jumping in front of the camera

  I have to say that Setsubun is one of my favorite Japanese holidays--it signals the arrival of spring, you get to throw things at people, and finally, the best reason of all: Yuki proposed to me on the night of Setsubun, 3 years ago. I don't think he intentionally planned to propose to me on a night having to do with demon folklore, but then again, I've never asked him, either!

                  Us on the night of Setsubun, 3 years ago