Saturday, February 04, 2006


For 2006, yesterday was Sestubun. In the old days, there used to be 4 Setsubuns a year. One for every change of the season. Now Japanese people only celebrate one. Yesterday was the change from winter to spring in the old calendar (funny as it snowed a bit last night). A change in the season is of course cause for celebration.

Several things happen in accordance with this special day...

Whole families make a pilgrimage to their local shrine. Mum, Dad, Grandma, Grandpa and kids. They take with them, the new years wreaths and decorations. They hand these over and proceed to pray for good luck and happiness for the following year. They then make a donation to the shrine and receive goods and or mame maki.

A growing pile of new year garbage...

(Geisha photo from BBC news)

Mame Maki. At home that night, Setsubun festivities continue with mame maki. Mame maki is a bean-throwing ceremony. Firstly people of the household toss roasted soybeans at one member of the family who is dressed as an oni. The oni is a representation of a demon or things that are bad. During the throwing, everyone chants, "Oni wa soto. Fuku wa uchi". This means "Demon (bad luck) out. Good luck in." After throwing, each family member collects beans from the clean tatami floor and eats the amount that corresponds with their age for good luck. I feel sorry for the grandparents who are over 90. The beans are hard and dry! Next, windows and doors open and family members toss beans outside, chanting again. Some children participate in this bean-throwing ceremony at kinder or primary school. I have seen them on TV, terrified of the big scary monster, tears streaming down their faces but they continue to throw beans. Very, very cute.

The mask on the left is the scary oni. I guess the beautiful lady on the right, represents happiness and good luck. They were bought at a local supermarket as a set for mame maki. Can you see the bags of beans underneath?

This is an advertisement at the supermarket for traditional Setsubun fare. One food that is popular is an entire roll of makizushi. I was told that eating this sushi for Setsubun originated in Osaka. The tradition goes that each person gets a whole roll. You should stand facing a prosperous direction for good luck and consume the entire thing with out talking. Sounds easy but they are remarkably huge!!
Also at this time of year, many people eat whale. Throughout the year you can purchase whale but right now it is everywhere. It is supposed to be expensive but as the photos show, it is decidedly cheap. 698 yen is about $9 for 100 grams. Not bad for endangered meat!


Anonymous said...

Great effort Ellen - watch out for missiles! M XXXX

Cinnacism said...

Interesting stuff.

Kat said...

very informative ellen, thank you! ~_^