Thousands of Miles from Home


Setsubun Showdown!

Yesterday afternoon was spent riding around on my bicycle after school, slicing at people with a green plastic samurai sword and screaming what probably ended up being unintelligable japanese until I felt my work was done. This morning I made my host family strawberry and banana pancakes. With that in mind, the Japanese festival of Setsubun:

Setsubun, or "seasonal division" is held on February 2 or 3, one day before the start of spring. Various rituals are performed with the purpose of chasing away evil spirits. Most of these rituals are family based, differing from household to household. On the day of the celebration, my host mother tried to explain what we would be doing that evening. She said, and I quote (in translation) "We will throw beans at Oni."

Andee came over for the celebration, which was held at the Saeki's house. We performed some exciting ritual (sacrafice). First, we ate a special uncut sushi roll that is extra long to welcome the spring (maki-zushi). You are supposed to eat said sushi roll in complete silence, facing a certain direction, which changes every year. I belive this year's direction was "west, southwest." I asked how the direction is chosen, but couldn't understand the process. (I later learned it is based on the Zodiac) I would have liked to belive that it is similar to groundhog day, with perhaps a special bird selecting various directions. Following the sushi was the Throwing of the Beans. To quote the process, "When throwing the beans, you are supposed to shout "Oni wa soto! Fuku wa uchi!" ("Devils out, happiness in"). Afterwards you should pick up and eat the number of beans which corresponds to your age." We all gathered at the front door while Jirou sensei put on an Oni mask. He rang the doorbell, opened the door, and we all threw beans in his face. "Oni wa soto!" I screamed, banishing the plastic Oni mask from my presence. "Fuku wa uchi!" soon followed, with a handfull of beans tossed into the house. We all took turns being Oni, and getting pelted with beans.

After that crazy display, we ate a tasty Oni cake topped with fruit deliciousness. A trip to the Saeki's house is always a great expericene, and we welcomed the Spring in true fashion.


  • The image of some guy ringing the doorbell only to get pelted in the face with beans by several people is definitely something that belongs in a Farrelly Brothers movie.

    I mean, I knew about the custom but I didn't realize they actually assaulted a family member impersonating a demon. That's just pure greatness.

    By Cinnacism, at 5:37 AM  

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