Setsubun – 節分

Today we are going to talk about Setsubun (節分)  Setsubun is basically the day of the beginning of the seasons and its name literally means “seasonal devision” Particularly, the one on 3rd February is celebrating for coming of spring and it is really big in Japan. This is also the one of the most famous seasonal activities in Japan so you can find lots of things everywhere stores for Setsubun around this season. We have two special acts for the day and one is Mamemaki (豆まき), the other one is Ehomaki (恵方巻き)

– Mamemaki

The custom of Mamemaki started in the Muromachi period. We throw Fukumame (福豆:Fortune roasted soybeans) to Oni (鬼:demon) who is performed by Toshiotoko (年男: the male who was born on the corresponding animal year on the Chinese zodiac) in your house or someone else a man in your house while we say “Oni ha soto! Fuku wa uchi!” (Demons out, Luck inside) This is for purifying you and your house from bad luck or bad health. Then people eat the soybeans as same as your age. Some families put up small decorations of Hiragi Iwashi (柊鰯:head of sardine and holy leaves) on their house entrances so that bad luck will not enter to their house. Nowadays people tend to go to shrine and do this custom. Also some Japanese celebrities come to the shrines as guests every year and throw the beans so people go there to see them. Especially, at Senso-Ji, Asakusa loads of people go and enjoy the annual activities.

– Ehomaki

Ehomaki is an another big custom on Setsubun. As you can see, Ehomaki is the name of Futomaki sushi (太巻き) We eat this in silence on Setsubun while facing the year’s lucky compass direction, determined by the zodiac symbol of that year. It basically comes from Kansai area but today in Japan, it is quite popular. Why the Sushi has become popular in Japan is the biggest convenience store in Japan, Seven-Eleven. When they tried to sell the Futomaki to all of Japan, they came with the name “Ehomaki” in 1998 since the it’s been spread to all of Japan and took hold as the act for Setsubun.

If you are in Japan, why don’t you try to do them?

Kamakura – かまくら

– Do you know Kamakura? 

Kamakura is dome-shaped snow house which is really popular in several cities in Tohoku district. The dome-shaped house is made for praying for the god of water so there is the alter decorated with paper stripes. And Specially, in Uonuma, Niigata (Chuetsu Region), people call it Hon-yara Do (ほんやら洞)

Inside the snow house, people wear Hanten (半纏 : a short winter coat, is an item of traditional Japanese clothing. The coat started to be worn, especially by the common people, in the 18th century during the Edo period) And there is Shichirin (七輪 : a small charcoal grill) in the centre of the house to grill Mochi (餅 : Rice cake) or boil Nabe (鍋 : Hot pot) or sometimes Kotatsu (こたつ : a low, wooden table frame covered by a futon, or heavy blanket, upon which a table top sits. Underneath is a heat source, often built into the table itself)

Kamakura has really long history. Especially, Rokugo no Kamakura (in Misato-cho, Akita) has been continuing for about 700years. Thus Kamakura is an important annual function for Japanese people.  Unfortunately, it doesn’t snow enough to make Kamakura in Tokyo, so if you want to see them, you should definitely go to Tohoku!