Thursday, 4 February 2010


Yesterday was Setsubun, the day halfway between the shortest day and the spring equinox. Setsubun literally means 'division of seasons', and it is supposed to mark the beginning of spring. There are actually 3 other Setsubuns throughout the year marking the start of the other seasons too, but only the spring one is really celebrated.

The big thing to do on Setsubun is throw beans at oni. Oni is usually translated into English as 'demon', but I don't think oni are really quite as evil as that. They are usually red or blue, have horns like a bull and wear tiger-skin shorts. People throw dried soy-beans and say 'Oni out, good luck in!'. It's also traditional to eat the same number of beans as your age.

Another Setsubun tradition in some areas is to eat rolled sushi, without speaking, while facing the direction deemed as lucky for that year. The shops here cash in on it and you can place an order for rolled sushi in the lead-up to Setsubun. I've also heard that an old tradition is to hang holly and dried fish on your door to keep the oni away.

We, along with other members of the local mother-toddler group, went over to the local day-care yesterday morning to join in their Setsubun festivities. The teachers dressed as tigers (this year's Chinese zodiac animal) and oni, threw beans and led the children in songs and dances. K enjoyed watching it all and dancing along with his version of the actions...

In the evening H came into the room wearing an oni mask. K was rather scared and ran to me for protection... I saved the day by throwing some beans at the oni, who recoiled suitably. When K saw the effect the beans had on the oni, he happily joined in:

Luckily, K also enjoyed picking all the beans up again afterwards!
(Don't ask why the little oni has no trousers on, or why I'm wearing a hat...)

Later it was K's turn to be the oni. He stomped around making growling noises, scaring us all. I put the mask on too for a while; at first it was OK, but then K got scared. He ran and grabbed my legs for me to save him. So he obviously knew that it was still me behind the mask, but didn't like it nonetheless.

I'm not sure that we can quite call it the beginning of spring yet, as there have been fluffy flakes of snow fluttering about today. The bulbs have all come up though, and the snowdrops are flowering so it won't be long...

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