(Written January 2015) February 3rd is Setsubun in Japan, which marks the end of winter. A common tradition associated with this ancient festival is mamemaki or beanthrowing. Most families carry out this fun tradition at home, but you can also visit a temple or shrine to do it with a crowd. In Tokyo, there are temples that have famous people, often sumo wrestlers, throwing the beans from a dias out to the excited crowd. Most preschools and children community centres also mark the day with some fun crafts and activities.
The purpose of the festival is to rid your house of demons and welcome good luck for the coming year. Hence, we chant oni wa soto, fuku ha uchi “demons out, good luck in” as we throw beans out the door or at the head of the household who dresses up as a demon. To this end kids often make oni masks for the ceremony and/or for playing dress up. If you eat the same number of beans as your age it is believed you will have good health for the year. You can read more about the festival on the KA International Moms website http://kajapan.org/general/setsubun-chasing-the-oni-away/ or on Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Setsubun
Yesterday, in preparation for the festival next week, the kids and I talked about setsubun. 5 year old remembers it from the last 2 years and (just turned) 4 year old is learning about it in school. They make masks and holders for the roasted beans. We will make them at home too. We practised some origami to hold the mamemaki roasted beans, there’s a link below to make your own. The beans are easy to come by in Japan at this time of year. Many shops sell commercialised mini-packs of roasted beans or nuts some with flavours. I bought ours from a home delivery shopping service, Coop. We will make demon masks next week. I wanted to share some of the setsubun and mamemaki teaching, craft and activity resources available online. Whether you are living and/or teaching in Japan, or a Japanese living abroad, or just looking for something to do with the kids on February 3rd, you will find something fun among these free setsubun art and craft resources. Most of these ideas are most suitable for toddlers and preschoolers.
Japanese Oni ; devils, demons, trolls or ogres
Japanese demons are depicted with 1 or 2 conical horns on their heads. They are often red in colour. They usually wear tiger skinned pants.
You can draw your own, or you can use the free print outs in the links below to make a mask for setsubun. There are a number of ways you can turn the free print outs or a hand drawn oni into masks. First colour (where necessary) the demon and cut it out. If you want to make a mask that covers the face you can stick a rectangular strip of paper to each ear and tape the open ends around an elastic band. For a “mask” that is worn above the face, as per photo in mamemaki section, you can simply stick the cut out to a head band or even a cap or make your own band out of paper.
- Information in English from Boston Children’s Museum.
- Pre-coloured, as well as colour-your-own free printables from Happy Lilac.
- Free downloads including masks and oni paper crafts with instructions, in Japanese ,from Canon.
- Remove the Xs on the ears of these demons and use elastic to complete these easy masks.
- Cut-the-eyes-out selection from nurie.ciao.jp
- Cute oni from paper museum
Oni Colouring pages
- One horned demon from kids-nurie.com
- Full body oni (before printing click on photo, then right click and save as a jpeg)
- Cute girl and boy oni
Huge selection of coloured setsubun print outs: http://putiya.com/html/season/02gatu/season02.html
An easy origami Oni (Demon) for toddlers and preschoolers
Mask that sits on the head and mamemaki holder made out of a milk carton cut in half
Milk carton setsubun mamemaki holders
One of the most popular and easiest kid’s craft for mamemaki holders is cutting a milk carton in half, piercing a hole in each side and using pipe cleaners as a handle. In the right hand (your left!) of my son in the photo to the left.
Paper cup setsubun mamemaki holders
One of the more original mamemaki holders I saw was on Hiragana Mama’s blog; a decorated paper cup.
Origami mamemaki holders
This year we are using origami boxes. This origami box paper craft is one of my favourite practical uses of origami. You don’t need origami paper as this easy to make box uses rectangle shaped paper such as an A4 sheet of paper.
These are just some ideas and resources you can use to enjoy the Japanese February 3rd end of year festival by chasing away demons. You can read about our setsubun last year, 2014, here.