2007/02/04

Demons Out!

Yes, February 3 was Setsubun again in Japan, that special day marking the end of Winter and the beginning of Spring according to the old calendar.


One of the rituals practiced on the day is called "Mamemaki". The head of the household takes roasted soybeans (Japan imports 96% of its soybeans, so these are likely to be from the USA or China) and throws some out the front door yelling "Oni wa soto!" (Demons out!) then tossing some back inside yelling "Fuku wa uchi!" (Happiness in!). The same is performed in each room of the house. The soybeans are called "fukumame" - happiness beans.

As I explained in last year's Setsubun post (for you new readers) the tradition is based on a an old story. In it, a demon or ogre, "oni" in Japanese, disguises himself as a human and goes to a widow's house. He uses a magic mallet to fashion a beautiful kimono and the woman decides to try and trick him getting him drunk and take both the kimono and the mallet from him. But the demon sees through this and reveals his true self to her. She is so frightened, she starts throwing soybeans at him and he runs away, taking his mallet and the kimono with him. You can also read about some of the other Setsubun traditions and events in that post along with pictures.



So Setsubun is all about casting out the demons at the end of Winter and inviting in the blessings of happiness and good fortune in the Spring.

Hopefully this tradition, or a form of it, will spread far and wide, and soon, a special prosecutor will show up at front door of the White House with a bag of roasted soybeans (one for each article of impeachment), and yell - all together now -

"Oni wa soto!" "Fuku wa uchi!"

13 comments:

ladybug said...

This sounds like a totally fun and do-able kind of ritual! Just the kind of thing I like.

I heard about one where an old guy stayed w/his daughter's family somewhere in the midwest. I think he was German, but I'm not sure.

Anyway on New Year's, he simply walked around the house and opened all the windows, (letting the bad old year out), then went around outside and shut the windows (to keep the good luck inside).

We just bang pots and pans together, shout "Happy New Year" and then go to bed.

The Moody Minstrel said...

Setsubun always reminds me of my very first Setsubun in Japan back in 1990. It was my last day teaching at Hasaki High School before being rotated out for good. As I was waiting in the English department office for my ride to announce that we were leaving, suddenly all the members of the student committee came running in, big smiles on their faces, and proceeded to bombard me with soybeans.

I guess one of the girls felt guilty about it, because she insisted on staying behind and helping me pick all the bits of soybean out of my sweater. I never saw her again.

QUASAR9 said...

Yep Pandabonium, Spring is here
Today a Gorgeous Sun Day!
Frosty white on the ground, bright golden yellow Sun above in the pale icy blue Sky.
Wishing you a great Day!

Pandabonium said...

Ladybug - It is fun. Afterward the house has roasted beans all over the place, so we say that the "Setsubunny" visited.

Moody - how sweet, they brought you lunch. I guess you were the gaijin oni to them.

Same to you Quasar9.

Martin J Frid said...

The food shops near where I live all sell Setsubun beans that are clearly labelled as "Non-GMO" which I found amusing.

The Japanese despise genetically engineered foods so much that they won't buy GMO beans even if they are meant to be thrown away!

It is a fun tradition, charming and slightly odd at the same time. Ladybug's comment reminded me that we can all make new traditions too: I'm all for banging pots and pans together!

Pandabonium said...

Martin - pots and pans would be fun. My trombone playing would scare off any oni as well.

One Setsubun tradition that makes non-GMO a good thing is that of eating one bean for each year of one's life plus one, something K and I do.

nzm said...

Does Momo eat beans too? :-)

What a great tradition!

Peceli and Wendy's Blog said...

What a lovely tradition. Hey, it would be good to throw a few around Suva these days too!

bonnie said...

re your last comment...

everybody sing along please -

Oh wooooouldn't it be loverly!

if only, if only, if only.

Pandabonium said...

Wendy - re: Suva - I thought you might say that. :^)

From my perspective, someone already did.

Bonnie - Oh, loverly indeed.

Momo the Wonder Dog said...

NZM - Thanks for thinking of me! No one gave me any beans, but Pandabonium threw some out the bedroom sliding door that landed by my house so I did get to eat a few. :P

Swinebread said...

My SO's favorite day! Or was that My SO's father's favorite day?

Oh well Demons out!

Pandabonium said...

Swinebread, you need to remember, because your SO is sure to. Remember one of the "Miranda" rules with SO's: "anything you don't remember can be used against you...."