It’s only February! How can spring be here?!?!
In Japan, it is traditionally believed that spring begins on February fourth. This day is called “Risshun.” February third is known as “Setsubun” and is one of the most celebrated festivals in modern Japan.
Here is a display for Setsubun at a local grocery store.
Here is another display at a different grocery store chain.
So why the big masks? And what is being sold?
Setsubun is the day when one drives evil spirits (oni, often translated into English as “devil”) out of the home. Traditionally roasted soybeans were thrown at the oni. Nowadays, it can be roasted soybeans, or peanuts, or even chocolate covered peanuts.
At the beginning of February in Japan, there are many brands of dried beans to choose from. I bought these roasted soybeans for celebrating Setsubun with my students, and also at home with my family, because the package was so stinkin’ cute. During our class on Tuesday, I let the students choose which little packages they wanted. They loved them so much!
Nowadays, the soybeans are often in packages like these because they are usually eaten after being thrown at the oni. And of course, not many people want to eat soybeans that have been on the floor!
Here I am…….a terrifying oni!
Setsubun does not seem well-known at all in the United States. (And understandably so, since it is a very traditional and extremely old Japanese custom that dates back to the 1300’s.) It’s a lot of fun. After all, who doesn’t like dressing up in scary masks??!!!???