Put a spring in your step

Spring is upon us! No, really. Yes, it’s cold and there’s possible snow forecast. Yes, spring begins 20th March. But we’re talking about Japanese spring. Tomorrow (2nd February) is Setsubun (節分), the day before the beginning of spring in the traditional Japanese calendar.

Setsubun has been celebrated since the 8th century, and there are a number of traditional practices associated with the festival. One of these is mamemaki (豆まき), bean scattering. Roasted soy beans are thrown outside the front door in order to drive away demons. Sometimes, a family member will dress as a demon and be pelted with beans! It is also considered good luck to eat a bean for every year of your life.

Another tradition is the consumption of ehō-maki (恵方巻), a special type of sushi. You can’t just eat it though! You have to point it in the auspicious direction, which changes every year. This year, it’s south-southeast! Why not have a go at making ehō-maki yourself?

If you’re interested in learning more, Gaijinpot has published a basic introduction. If you’re not familiar with Gaijinpot, it’s a website for foreign residents in Japan, with guides to Japanese culture, living in Japan, working in Japan and other resources, too.

Have you celebrated setsubun in Japan? How does your family celebrate the beginning of spring? Let us know in the comments!

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