Sunday, February 6, 2011

Setsebun.... Nut Protection Required

Well - this is a little late due to my recent travels... by the way, if you haven't been to Darwin before, it's worth considering, but don't expect a cheap place despite it's huge number of backpackers. Anyway - now back to the purpose of this post... the 3rd of February (the day before Spring officially begins) is known as Setsubun in Japan. This day associated with the cleansing of evil spirits from houses, to welcome the onset of spring without any lingering bad-vibes. The festival is most famously known for it's bean throwing... or mamemaki.

I'd first came across setsubun on my first trip to Japan in 2003 when we visited the temple in Asakusa, known as Senso-ji. The gist of the festival is that the oldest male, or the male born in that zodiacal year (this year is the year of the rabbit which repeats every 12 years) takes on the role of the bean thrower. Within the home, this is done by a very generous volunteer adorning a mask (I don't think I will win any oni awards with my effort above) after which they are chased around the house whilst being pelted by soy beans before retreating to the safety of outside. The soy beans purify the house... clearly demons aren't partial to soy beans. The attack of soy beans is usually accompanied by the saying "Oni wa soto, fuku wa uchi" - Oni go outside, good luck come into our house...

Now the traditions have been changing slightly, and soy beans can now be replaced by peanuts (still in the shell that is). I'm not sure that's a great improvement as far as the oni is concerned.

It's funny, but L-kun's experienced one setsubun before, and yet he remembers it clearly (and was getting very excited to do it again). He kept asking yesterday for daddy to make the oni! Even though we were a little late due to me being away, how could I resist? Before you knew it, L-kun was being chased all over the house. It's Oni Time!

Daddy takes his oni duties VERY SERIOUSLY. T-chan thinks my oni's just a little too scary, but L-kun loves it. Gggggrrrrrroooooarrrr!

L-kun also takes his duties very seriously. This year, not only was he using multiple projectile techniques (being hit by 3 - 5 peanuts simultaneously adds combo bonuses), but started working in some power-moves like the fist-of-nuts-charge and the foot-of-mayhem-kick-to-the-beans technique. All of which left poor oni feeling a little sore. No wonder why setsubun is one of L-kun's favourite Japanese festivals.

Before long, oni had been forced to seek protection outside... the barrage of peanuts had been too much for him. Outside, he was last seen licking his wounds and wiping the tears from his battered head.... not to mentioned extricating peanuts from all sorts of places. When Daddy finally made a re-appearance (Daddy, where were you!), L-kun immediately wanted to have a Round 2. Oni's head and body was still smarting however from the assault before, so he was happy to concede defeat.

Besides, L-kun had to observe the other tradition of setsubun. You're supposed to eat the number of beans (ok peanuts here) equal to your age. L-kun was happy to oblige. 1. 2. 3... 4 (hold on something not right here), 5. 6.....21...just how old are you L-kun? It turns out he loves peanuts. It may not be entirely good luck, but tradition can go out the window if it comes between L-kun and his food. 

Daddy shouldn't try to eat the number for his age... he's trying to lose some weight before his next trip to Japan. It says 30-something in Daddy's profile... and it won't be long before he'll have to update that with a minor though significant modification....

Japanese Lessons:
Spring - haru (春)
Bean - mame (豆)
Demon - oni (鬼)
Setsubun (節分)


  1. Ben, it was a funny post! Loved reading.

  2. Thanks.... I have to say that it's not just L-kun that loves setsubun, but Daddy does as well.

  3. WOW, Ben, That sure was a scary Oni. Looks like you both had a fun time.

  4. I think it's just a fun time for all... including the ever-elusive (behind the camera) T-chan.