Thursday, February 3, 2011

Setsubun 節分 - Beans-throwing Fun!

Happy Chinese New Year! 

Today is the first day of Chinese New Year, according to the lunar calendar. This is the first time that I am spending CNY all alone. I wish I could be back home with my family! 

BUT THAT'S OK! I can have fun by myself too! Beans-throwing fun, that is!   

Today is also Setsubun 節分! 

節分 (Setsubun) is the day before the beginning of Spring in Japan, according to the lunisolar calendar. Today is the day to purify your home of evil spirits and other negativity, and to invite fortune and happiness in for the new year. To do that, you must have THE essential item...


Not just any beans, but 福豆 (Fuku mame -Fortune Beans). These are roasted soybeans that are available in  convenient stores, supermarkets and shrines. The price of fuku mame can be as low as 100yen a pack, and can cost as much as 1,000yen if they are sold in shrines and are blessed by the powers of the deities. 

I got mine from 7-11, Olympic (hypermart near my home), and MEIJI SHRINE

Tada! My super blessed beans from Meiji Shrine. An amulet is included! 

These beans are needed for a ritual called 豆まき (Mame maki - Beans-throwing). So you are ready with your beans. One member of the family wears a devil's mask, symbolical of bad luck and misfortune, while the rest of the family throw beans at him, chanting: 

'鬼は外! 福は内! (ONI WA SOTO! FUKU WA UCHI!)' 
which means, Demons out, Fortune in! 

This 'devil' is then thrown out of the house (of cos he can return later) and the door is slammed. Hahaha sounds fun! One then picks up the same number of beans as one's age from the floor and eats them. Make sure your floor is cleaned first! 

Or, if you live alone like me, you can just throw the beans everywhere to cleanse your home of evil. It was quite fun! As I was shouting the chant, I got a bit hysterical and started running around the house and laughing to myself. Ok that sounds a bit crazy. 

Beans on the floor, with Kiiro Tori. 

Shrines and temples also have Mame Maki rituals to celebrate Setsubun. I visited the quaint little shrine near where I stay to join in the fun! 

People born in the year of the Rabbit were invited to go up on stage to throw beans...

...while the others were hoping to catch the thrown beans for good luck! 
Some even held big plastic bags to help them catch more beans! 

Picking up beans from the floor. 

Also, there is another custom on Setsubun, which involves eating an entire row of uncut makizushi called 恵方巻き (Ehou Maki), while facing a lucky direction of the year, in silence. 

The lucky direction changes every year, and this year, it is the South-South-East.

Must get the direction right! 

Ehou Makis are sold in convenient stores and supermarkets.

My Ehou Maki from 7-11! 
Some Ehou Makis have blessings from powerful shrines and temples. But mine is just a cheap normal one. Haha. 

It looks and tastes like a normal sushi. 
May you have a healthy and prosperous year of the Bunny! 

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