Thursday, February 04, 2010


Bean Throwing Ceremony

Setsubun is the day before the beginning of each season in Japan. February 3rd there is

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 special ritual is called mamemaki (豆撒き, bean throwing).

Roasted soybeans (fuku mame) are thrown either out the door or at a member of the family wearing an Oni (demon or ogre) mask, while the throwers chant "Oni wa soto! Fuku wa uchi!" (鬼は外! 福は内!)., meaning "Demons out! Luck in!"

The beans are thought to symbolically purify the home by driving away the evil spirits that bring misfortune and bad health with them. Then, as part of bringing luck in, it is customary to eat roasted soybeans, one for each year of one's life plus one more for bringing good luck for the year to come.

I knew about this because our Japanese department notified us, since our students would be participating in this - and some ground rules had to be laid, primarily no touching the Oni, as if chasing around poor high school boys dressed as the Oni and pelting them with beans wasn't bad enough. I went out to watch my kids run around like banshees tormenting the onis.

It didn't even cross my mind that they would do this at Maximo's daycare.

But they did.

Whereas fifth graders loved the cat and mouse chase, the little ones were terrified. From what I could gather from the senseis EVERYONE cried. Talking to my friends who have had their kids there for a few years, EVERYONE CRIES EVERY YEAR. It must be an important tradition and crucial for a lucky upcoming year, because, really, why would you want to traumatize a bunch of little kids by chasing them in a scary ogre mask/costume. Don't think tubby, green Shriek ogre - think of horned, red, and petrifying. This is more like it:

I wonder if any of the little ones were even able to throw beans, or if they just clung to their senseis for dear life.

Here's the Oni Maximo made at daycare the day before ~I like how the oni's horns look like they were turned into fangs and he's wearing a party hat~

and here's the nice little English description his senseis put into his bag for us. They wanted to have an explanation for his "oni nightmares".

I've added some pictures and completed the January 2010 photo gallery which is now in the sidebar to the right!

Note: I added some kanji, because I think it just looks cool. Too bad I can only recognize about 2 characters.

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