Archives for the day Tuesday, February 3rd, 2009

Se tsu bu n: February 3rd : Goblins and toasted soybeans in Japanese culture

 “Oni wa so to, Fuku wa u chi” -“Goblins out, Fortune in!!” (translation in English)

You would hear these shouting all around neighborhood if you were in Japan on Feb 3rd. One person wear goblin mask,and act like goblin (the one who brings bad luck in) and others throw toasted soybeans at the goblins to drive them away. Goblins acts to run away (meaning bad luck out,and good luck in),and people collect the toasted soybeans that they threw at the goblin equal to the number of your age. If you were 1 year old,you are supposed to pick one soybean and eat one,and wish their own good health. This is our tradition in Japan.

So, Setsubun day is one day before spring,usually Feb 3rd. This tradition has started around Mu ro ma chi era. Above description of how we spend the Feb 3rd is norm, but region to region,there are some differences to cerebrate the coming of the spring in addition to soybean throwing act.

For example, Shi zu o ka prefecture,which is next to Tokyo and well known for eel and tea,they make Mo chi (sticky rice cake) at Feb 3rd night and then, put the Mo chi at the door, and turn off all the lights in the house and keep quiet a while. I am not sure how long they be quiet. And in eastern north part;Aomori or Yamagata prefectures and surrounding area,they put sardines on a skewers and place it at the door.

Also, around the setsubun day,Sushi store makes good business to sell Futo maki zushi (thick rolled sushi length about 8 inch long,3-4 inch width). Supposedly, you eat the long uncut futo maki zushi facing to the good luck direction as if you play trumpet, you get good luck coming in the year. People are not suppose to cut into chunk just like you see at your local super market because cutting it up considered to be cutting the good luck,so for the Feb 3rd,people eat long rolled sushi (for most family).

When I was a kid, kindergarten teacher acted like goblin and we kids threw toasted soybeans at them, in the family,my father was Goblin actor. Since only soybean to pick is no fun at all,my mother made change to it. Usually,she bought bagof chocolate (just like “kisses” chocolate bag),and not only throwing the soybean at my father,we did chocolate as well,but if I remember correctly,I think we did this in the dark and I think I got some soybean hit as well although I was not goblin actor. Also,I think we picked up the goodies in the dark as well. It was long time ago,but I remember it was one of the fun events in the year. I am sure American kids would love this tradition.

Maybe, you can do your own version of Setsubun cerebration using candies or nuts or something and can experience our tradition at your home.It maybe fun to try I am sure kids would love this event.

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Feb 03, 2009 | Comments are off | Japan