Chinese culture and traditions has influenced Japan. “Setsubun” is one clear example. “Setsubun,” meaning seasonal division,formally called “Risshun,” is celebrated on February 3rd. This end of winter name came from the linkage to the Lunar New Year and is considered New Year’s Eve. The unique “Setsubun” event is called “Mamemaki,” originating from Chinese custom which was introduced to Japan in the 8th century. It gained its popularity in the Muromachi period (1336-1573).
At “Mamemaki,” the “Toshiotoko,” a male born in the corresponding animal year of the Chinese zodiac or the male of the household, throws “Mame” (beans) out the door while yelling, “Oni wa soto,” which means, ‘Demons Out,’ and “Fuku wa uchi” means, ‘Slam the Door,’ denoting Luck. Usually one of the family members dons an “Oni” mask and pretends to be the demon, and run a way outside. People try to hit at the “Oni,” kick him out, and slam the door. The throwing beans at the “Oni” ritual are thought to symbolically purify the home by driving away the evil spirits that bring misfortune,bad health, and return good luck to the home.
There are “Mamemaki” celebrations at Buddhist temples and Shinto shrines throughout the country. Priests and invited guests throw roasted soy beans (some wrapped in gold or silver foil), small envelopes with money. In larger shrines, the event is televised with “Toshiotoko,” famous bean scattering celebrities.
In the Kansai area, a unique “Setsubun” custom one of eating uncut “Ehomaki,” “Lucky Direction” rolls on February 3rd. “Ehomaki” is a type of large sushi roll that is eaten in silence, without cutting, facing in the years ‘Lucky Compass’ direction. Today, tasty “Ehomaki” is nationwide and during “Setsubun” season different varieties of “Ehomaki” can be found at local convenience or grocery stores.
To bring a prosperous New Year, throw beans, kick out your bad luck, and eat “Ehomaki.”
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