Tuesday, February 3, 2015
Today is Setsubun, the day before the beginning of Spring in Japan, when evil spirits and Oni are driven out of the house to make room for a healthy new year. Throwing roasted soybeans out the front door and chanting is customary. Sometimes a member of the household dresses up as an Oni with a bright red, horned monster mask, and pelted with soybeans as he runs out the front door.
Oni wa soto! Fuku wa uchi! "Demons out, luck in!"
Historically, time and space marking the new year was considered permeable--the spirit world was separated by the physical world by a thin scrim that allowed wandering spirits to slip freely back and forth, making a shambles of things. In the Shinto world, where every object is imbued with its own particular spirit, Setsubun ensures that unwanted spirits don't linger over tools and practical everyday objects to cause harm.
The permeable nature of this time deserves celebrating as well--practices of role reversal are honored, including wearing disguises and cross dressing. Any means of tricking the Oni is encouraged!
No soybeans in the house? Modern regional celebrations in Japan include throwing candy coated peanuts, sweets, and money too. Ginger Sake is also imbibed during Setsubun. Yum!
Oh, and don't forget to slam the front door hard once the Oni has been driven away. That sound makes it final!