Blackcabbit (aka. Dionnie Takahashi) is an illustrator living in Japan. She loves drawing whimsical animal characters, as well as doing handmade crafts to beautify the world she lives in.
Setsubun (節分 / Seasonal division) – marks the end of winter and is a day before the Spring season. According to traditional Japanese calendar, it is usually on February 3rd or 4th. On this last winter night, many families will open windows and doors to scatter Fukumame (福豆 / “Lucky” parched soybeans) outside the house. Simultaneously, they will be chanting, “Oni wa soto, Fuku wa uchi” (鬼は外! 福は内! / Demons out, Fortune in).
This popular event is known as Mamemaki (豆撒き/ Bean scattering). It was a custom originated in China. Initially, it was an imperial ceremony on New Year’s Eve to expel “Oni (demons)” or evil spirits, as to welcome in a fresh New Year. Eventually, it was adopted by the common folks with much variations throughout the country.
The Oni (Hey, sounds close to my name LOL)… is an imaginary evil that represents epidemics, calamities, and all sort of misfortunes. Visually, the Japanese demon is commonly depicted with fangs; one or two horns protruding from its head; wears tiger’s skin; big built (say, 2.5 meters tall); and comes in red, black or blue skin color.
Nowadays, it is common for fathers of families with little children to wear a plastic or paper Oni mask and run around the house as moving targets. A little rowdy but definitely making the Mamemaki ritual a lot of fun! As for us, instead of running away or retaliate by throwing Fukumame at his Oni-wanabe Papa, our 11-month old baby was totally clueless. Haha, maybe next year Baby will know better…
Similar to the Oni mask-bearers, it is also common to see “bean-scatterers” wearing smiley chubby female masks and chasing after the “Oni”. The face belongs to Okame (also known as Otafuku), who represents Fuku (福/ fortune, luck and happiness).
I did an Etegami (Picture Postcard) for Setsubun, with a child eating an Ehomaki.
Message: Oni wa soto, Fuku wa uchi (Demons out, Fortune in).
We didn’t have a lot of Fukumame to spare, so we niggardly tossed a few out of the main door, kitchen door and bathroom window. Of which, all these main “openings” were decorated with Hiiragi Iwashi (柊挿し / Sardine head on a holly branch)- a talisman to prevent evil from entering.
After all the bean-scatterings, part of the ritual was to collect and eat the Fukumame. Since Mame (豆 / soybean) shares the same homonym with 忠実 (healthy; fit), Japanese believe eating the same number of beans that corresponds to their age will bring them a year of health and good luck.
Another highlight of the Setsubun, is to eat an Ehomaki (恵方巻き / long sushi roll) in hope for health and protection from disasters. Interestingly, one has to eat an entire roll, uncut and without uttering a word, while facing a lucky direction of the year. Of which, it is Nannanto (南南東 / South-Southeast) for the year 2011.
Nowadays, instead of preparing Ehomaki for the family, most housewives will just pre-order them with supermarkets and convenience stores, and collect them on Setsubun. As for our family, my MIL taught me how to make each of us a sushi roll for dinner. And she said we should silently make a wish and don’t tell anyone about it so that it will come true. (Okay, my lips are sealed) ^=^