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Setsubun, the change of seasons, and cute Japanese devils

On setsubun (節分, or “Bean-throwing festival”) evening I had a lesson with my Japanese students, and they were excited to talk about traditions of that day and eat some cute devil-face shaped buns.setsubunOriginally, in Japan there were four setsubun per year: one for every change of season. Now there is only one left, and it is celebrated only on February 3. It marks the day when winter turns to spring. In the old calendar February 4 was the first day of spring (risshun, 立春).

In old times Chinese and Japanese people believed that on setsubun day devils came out to bring disasters and illnesses. Therefore, it is customary to wear a mask (think Japanese-style Halloween), throw roasted soy beans to keep them away and invite good luck.setsubunTradition of eating uncut thick rolls, eho-maki (恵方巻き, “lucky direction rolls”) comes from Kansai area, and people in Tokyo weren’t much used to them. However, these days you can buy eho-maki at any supermarket or convenience store. There are even some sweet variations of eho-maki.setsubun

It is required be silent while eating eho-maki on setsubun day. My student told me that when he lived in Kansai area, people tried to make him laugh or talk back, so it was rather difficult to finish it up. Here in Tokyo you can peacefully eat it, as well as the soy beans. We also had some, and they were really good!setsubun

Article by Olga Kaneda

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