Tuesday, 5 February 2013


花鳥風月 (Kachou Fuugetsu) Literally: “Flower, Bird, Wind, Moon” -This means: Experience the beauties of nature, and in doing so learn about yourself.
Setsubun (節分) in Japan is traditionally the day before the beginning of spring. Setsubun literally means “seasonal division,” but it is most commonly in reference to the division between winter and spring, more specifically called Risshun. It is celebrated annually on February 3 as part of the Spring Festival (Haru Matsuri). In its association with the lunar new year, Setsubun was traditionally thought of as a sort of New Year’s Eve, and so was accompanied by a special ritual to cleanse away all the evil of the former year and drive away disease-bringing evil spirits for the year to come. This custom is called mamemaki or literally “bean-throwing.”
Mamemaki is still performed at most shrines and temples all over Japan. It is also enthusiastically espoused by children who go about throwing beans at one another at school, in playgrounds and at home. It is customary at home for an adult to wear an evil mask and get pelted with beans! Roasted soybeans (called “fortune beans”) are thrown either out the door or at a member of the family wearing an oni (demon) mask, while the people recite “Oni wa soto! Fuku wa uchi!” (Demons out! Fortune in!) and slam the door. A similar ritual in the West is the throwing of rice at weddings – banish evil attract good fortune for the newlyweds.
The beans are thought to drive away the evil spirits that bring misfortune and bad health with them, so the custom of mamemaki is a purification ritual. Another part of ensuring good luck is to eat roasted soybeans, one for each year of one’s life, and in some areas, one for each year of one’s life plus one more for bringing good luck for the year to come. Stores sell a long uncut makizushi (sushi) roll called eho-maki (literally, “lucky direction roll”). It’s to be eaten in silence on Setsubun while facing the yearly lucky compass direction, determined by the zodiac symbol of that year.
At Buddhist temples and Shinto shrines all over Japan, there are celebrations for Setsubun. Priests and invited guests will throw roasted soy beans (some wrapped in gold or silver foil), small envelopes with money, sweets, candies and other prizes. In some bigger shrines, even celebrities and sumo wrestlers will be invited; these events are televised nationally. Many people come, and the event turns wild, with everyone pushing and shoving to get the gifts tossed from above. Monday, 11 February 2013 has been designated as the official Setsubun holiday when the temple celebrations will be carried out. It is not a national holiday.

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