It sounds like a metaphor for exorcism, but this is just another fun custom in Japan, carried out on February 3rd annually. Today, is Setsubun
, the day before Spring starts and in some ways a type of New Year in Japan. For Setsubun,
households use the ritual of Mamemaki
, bean throwing, to rid the house of evil and allow luck in for the coming year. We shout “Demons out, luck in
” as we throw beans at a Demon. Tonight, that demon was my husband!
In preparation for the festivities tonight, we made some Demon masks for today’s craft. We also made little baskets to hold the beans. When my husband got home from work he donned the mask and the kid’s threw their beans at him while shouting the mamemaki chant. My husband exited the room when he felt they had “defeated” him! After that my eldest son also threw beans out the door while shouting the chant and closed the door firmly. This is another way people practise Mamemaki and he wanted to be sure.
Setsubun Activity at a children’s centre
In previous years we participated in group mamemaki activities, but it was actually too scary for them with being so little. When you attend a shrine or a jidokan (free children’s centre) young children often don’t realise that somebody is dressed up as the demon, which can frighten the bejesus out of them. In some temples and shrines, such as Senso-ji in Asakusa (Tokyo), the priests or invited guests throw money in envelopes and other prizes as well as the beans into a crowd. That’s one to try out when the kids are old enough for the pushing and shoving, for now, its beans all the way.
Tomorrow, we take out the hina matsuri dolls…
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