Countries all over the world host an assortment of different holidays and traditions. Sometimes some may find some traditions are rather strange or unethical, just because they themselves don’t celebrate it. Well, since I have started living in Japan I can say it is no exception.
(Image from Google)
Growing up in America, I can say it has its own assortment of strange customs. Though I don’t think to many of them are that crazy, but I think it depends on where you are living within the US. Japan is a country that is much older and richer with history than America. It has many traditions and customs that go back hundreds of thousands of years. This can atest to a few of the traditions being slightly strange to our modern ways.
Yesterday was one of the more interesting celebrations, Setsubun (せつぶん) or the last day of winter. I had been asking questions about it to all my teachers. My supervisor being as sweat as ever went out of her way to make sure I partook in the traditions that come setsubun. What does Setsubun all entail? Well, there are several different things.
(Treats given to me from Sumitomo-sensei)
First being the common tradition of throwing soy beans to get rid of the bad in your life and home. It is better known as chasing the demons away. This is often seen being done with small children throwing beans at a person dressed as a demon or some kind of demon rigged thing. I think the elementary ALTs get to have fun with this, but I reached into my inner child and cleared my house of evil last night.
Yes, I threw beans all around my small apartment. When in Rome right?
The second, but newer, tradition is to eat a certain type of sushi roll, ehomaki (えほまき). You are not supposed to cut the roll but eat it as a whole. When you eat it you are not supposed to talk, but pray inside your head for good luck. You are also to eat facing the direction that has been declared lucky for the holiday. Who declares it lucky I am not 100% sure, most likely a holy man, but this years direction was South/South East.
The third is that a person needs to eat as many soy beans as your age. I am 25 so I needed to eat that many. The older you get the more you need to eat. It is to help keep the year lucky, but I am not sure what would happen if you ate over the amount of your age. Maybe that means your greedy.
The last tradition, or the last that I know of, is to put out the ward that will scare away the demons. This is commonly the head of a fish that is to be left outside your door. Many say that demons will find it grotesque and will not want to go near it. Thus the house is saved. A person is also supposed to put out the white mask that is to represent luck, but this one stays within the home.