Setsubun, the day before Japan welcomes spring, and a chance to banish demons and wish for good luck in the coming year.
This year we celebrated (for the first time) with our friends at our local shrine in Ayaragi. To ensure good luck for the year, any new years eve decorations need to be burned at the shrine. But this isn’t the most fun activity to take place! To warn off any bad spirits, you also throw and catch dried soy beans. This is a lot of fun when one of the people you are hanging out with happens to be a student you teach (she ‘adopted’ Dan and I and now strives to help us overcome our Japanese cultural ignorance – it is ok, we are also friends with her mum, they just happen to be a very cool duo!) When the stars aligned in this way, it meant that I had a student’s mum actively encouraging me to throw dried soy beans at their child, whilst shouting something along the lines of BE BANISHED in Japanese! Such fun. We all relished the chance to warn away any evil spirits on Setsubun!
Dan, Kate and Joe enjoyed an afternoon of making (and then eating) a lot of rolled sushi and then we all went to the shrine together to celebrate properly. As 5pm approached the mayor of Shimonoseki joined us, leading the way in bean throwing! I managed to catch a few packets of beans, but Joe was the ultimate winner, and he went home with pockets full. Although I say winner, but you are then supposed to eat the beans. And they are literally dried soy beans…so winner? Perhaps not.
It is safe to say that my student and her family are winning the fight to teach us about Japanese culture. We have had lessons so far in eating Nabe (stew) in the forest to celebrate Autumn, cooking Okonomiyaki (pancakes) for winter, and now welcoming spring with Setsubun. Next lesson…Karaoke! Although, must all lessons involve dressing up Dan and Joe in princess crowns and bunny ears? It seems so…