I’ve noticed that every year around the end of Jan and beginning of Feb, the local supermaket I frequent will have a special corner for dried soybeans and sushi rolls. The big Chinese characters on the promotion tag mention some sort of festival, but it took me a while to finally decipher what they meant exactly.
After consulting my Japanese friends, I was informed that “Setsubun” is a festival in Japan to welcome the imminence of spring. On that day, it is a tradition for people to throw dried beans in or outside their homes yelling “Fuku wa uchi, Oni wa soto” literally meaning “happiness inside house, demons outside”. Also on the same day, people are supposed to eat a whole sushi roll facing a certain direction in order to obtain health and fortune for the year.
This came up in one of my conversations with some students at Kyobbashi School some time this week. We couldn’t believe our ears when one of the students said that in a Nara temple, apparently the monks yelled “Fuku wa uchi, oni mo uchi.” ( happiness inside the house, demons also inside the house.) To prove her innocence and convince the shocked lot, she pulled out a magazine from her purse and flicked quickly to a page with some dancers in bright red demon costumes. Apparently the monks’ invitation is supposed to move the demons so that they reform themselves! It is said that to be touched by reformed demons brings happiness for the whole year, which makes perfect sense to me, why wouldn’t you be fortunate if you were blessed even by the demons? This special performance is held on Feb 3 at Yoshino Temple, Nara every year. Unfortunately we’ve already missed it for 2008, but maybe next year.