February 13, 2017
JET teacher Laurence's February Blog Post!
Hello everyone! Laurence here.
Setsubun is the last day before the beginning of spring in Japan. It is celebrated every year on February 3rd. Though the Japanese don’t celebrate the Lunar New Year nearly as much as Korea and China, Setsubun is associated with the idea of bringing luck for the year to come.
On that day, a member of the household puts on a Japanese demon mask and roasted soybeans are thrown at them in order to chase evil spirits from their home for the next year. This custom is called “mamemaki”.
Though performed by people of all ages, this custom is especially enjoyed by children, who love dressing up and running around. Some people also go to temples where this ritual takes place.
As with most customs, there are many different variations on how it is celebrated throughout the country and in individual households as well. Some people use peanuts instead of soybeans. Some people also put talismans (which can be made with sardine heads and holy leaves) on their door to keep bad spirits from entering their home.
Sushi rolls are also popular during Setsubun. A variation called ehomaki, or lucky direction rolls, are placed on a plate pointing to the lucky direction of that year.
As a foreigner living here, I love that Japan still embraces customs that go back hundreds of years. If you ask most people if they believed that evil spirits were going to enter their home if they didn’t perform mamemaki, they would probably say no. Yet, a lot of people still take the time to do it.
I hope to be able to perform mamemaki with someone one day!
See you next month,