Today (February 3rd) was not a usual Saturday. Today was the Setsubun (節分), which marks the start of spring. As it is celebrated at about the same time as Lunar New Year – there is some historical connection there- it involves purifying rituals. Because, you know, at the start of a new year you usually make resolutions that you will not keep and clean your house, so why not sweep some devil ogres along with the dust while you are at it? The Japanese oni (鬼) are a pain-in-the-ass kind of demons and for this reason require special handling. You can only drive them away by throwing soy-beans at them (豆まき mamemaki). But not any kind of beans, the ones that are purified at a temple by a miko (young girl priestesses) or maybe conbini stuff (they seem to also possess super powers, judging by their insane working hours). Nowadays, with globalization and everything, wild onis are hard to find, so in order to keep the ritual going someone wears a demon mask and the rest of the family chase them out of the house by throwing the above holy beans while yelling “Demons out! Luck in!” (鬼は外! 福は内! Oni wa soto! Fuku wa uchi!). Furthermore, because Japan is the country of motaenai, nothing goes to waste. Which means that you have to eat the leftover beans, one for every year of your life and that will supposedly bring you luck.
The big jinjas in tokyo usually organize events for Setsubun, so my plan was to go to Zojou-ji and sneak a peak. However, I arrived there too late and there was nothing to be seen, even the temple ground was swept clean.
The traditional food of the day is ehoumaki (恵方巻), a super-long sushi roll that is supposed to be eaten will one is facing a certain lucky direction. I wanted to buy a special one from the temple and eat there facing south, south-east, but my luck had abandoned me today. I got a beni-haruka sweet potato and chilled at a nearby park.
Lawson had an interesting campaign today, with the 4 employees selling ehoumaki outside the store dressed up as blue- & red-masked onis and the accompanying miko. Contrarily to popular belief, demons and priestesses seemed to get along pretty well. On my way home, I came across Seijoishii super market (ultimate favorite because it sells greek chocolate ION) and guess what? I bought ehoumaki! The cheap one with 7 ingredients, because 1300yen for supermarket sushi is far too much. I also got some soy beans and a tiny ogre mask, but now two problems have arisen: 1. who will accept to be transformed into a demon, so that I can throw beans at them?, and if they do 2. the mask is tiny, does not fit but to a mouse-head, how the hell will they put it on?
P.S. A nice advertisement for car tires inspired from the day.