Monday, February 3, 2014

It's Setsubun

Today is Setsubun (SET-sue-boon), the division of the season, the day before the beginning of Spring in Japanese culture.

The Japanese believe it's the start of the Lunar New Year and the perfect time to rid the house of evil vibes that have accumulated over the past year.

No, they don't clean house. They throw beans around. Roasted beans known as mamemaki (MAH-may-MAH-key) are tossed into all of the rooms.

Mame, the Japanese word for "bean," is a homophone for the characters that also mean "ogre's eye." Consequently, when you roast them, you exterminate the ogres.

But you don't just throw beans around. You have to give the ogres a way to escape, and the good spirits a way to enter the house. So you have to open all the doors and windows before "beaning" the rooms.

And, you have to shout, "Oni WA soto!" (OH-knee WAH soh-toh, meaning "Out with the ogres!") and "Fuku WA uchi!" (FOO-koo WA oo-chi, meaning "In with good fortune!").

Finally, for added good luck measure, you have to eat a whole unsliced roll of maki-sushi (MAH-kee ZOO-shee). Make a wish as you eat, facing this year's lucky direction, east by northeast.

Akemashite omedet┼Źgozaimasu!

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