Japan is a year of many celebrations, rituals, and traditions, each different from the other but very exotic and exciting events.
Today we will tell you about Setsubun…Read on to find out more!
The end of winter in Japan
On February 3, in the land of the samurai, the end of winter is celebrated and, therefore, the arrival of spring. It is not a national holiday, but it is a deep-rooted tradition.
The day before the change of season is known as Setsubun (節分). The word means “division between seasons of the year.”
Since the dates of Setsubun are referenced to the old lunisolar calendar (旧暦, kyūreki), some years may vary slightly.
There is a special purification ritual (which began to be celebrated in the Muromachi period, that is, in the mid-14th century) called mamemaki, which literally translated means “to throw seeds.”
The mamemaki is a ritual to cleanse all the bad things from the previous year and to drive away demons in the new year. In the tradition of Japan, demons are believed to be carriers of disease and poverty.
In Japanese, soybeans are called “mame.”
In Japanese, the devil means “Akuma,” and eye means “me,” so “eye of the devil” means “Akuma no me.”
Thus, the devil’s eye contraction would be “mame” just like soybeans. Perhaps that is why it is thought that chasing away demons by throwing mame at them to hit them in the eyes could chase away bad luck and attract good luck.
This ritual is usually performed by the head of the family or the most important person in the place where it is held (school or temple, for example).
It consists of throwing soybeans while shouting:
oni wa soto! fuku wa uchi!” (鬼は外! 福は内!) which means “Out with the demons! In with the good luck!”
Although it is mostly a family celebration, many temples and shrines in Japan celebrate Setsubun.
A special kind of sushi is also common during Setsubun. Eho-maki is a typical dish throughout Japan for this holiday.
This sushi roll is made from seven ingredients believed to bring luck, although the specific ingredients vary. The fillings can include:
-Shiitake mushrooms simmered
-Kanpyo (dried pumpkin)
-Cucumber, tamagoyaki (rolled up tortilla)
-Sakura denbu (sweet fish powder)
-Seasoned koyadofu (freeze-dried tofu)
-Seasoned cod roe.
Note: There is a unique label for eating. You must eat Eho-maki in contemplative silence, facing the eho, or “direction of good fortune” of the year. And although sushi rolls are usually cut into pieces, eho-maki rolls always remain in one large piece when eaten. People think it’s bad luck to cut them up.
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