What's TODAY?

Setsubun/節分 -What’s TODAY?- no.1-

This article can be read in about 6 minutes.

Do you know what today (February 2nd, 2021) is?
It’s the end of the year, which is  called  “Setsubun” in Japanese.  

According to the Japanese lunisolar calendar, a year is divided into 24 seasons.
The beginning of spring (“Risshun/立春” in Japanese) falls on February 3rd (Precisely speaking, National Astronomical Observatory of Japan, NAOJ, released that it’s at 23:59@GNT+9:00 of February 3rd), tomorrow!
This means the new year, based on the Japanese lunisolar calendar, starts tomorrow! The last time that Risshun fell on February 3rd was 124 years ago, in 1897. 

What do Japanese people do on Setsubun?

  1. Throwing beans
  2. Eating the rolled sushi

Throwing beans/豆撒き

We throw beans inside and outside our home to drive away demons who (Japanese people believe) enter the house when the season changes.
While throwing the beans, we say “Oni-wa soto, Fuku-wa uchi!,” which means “Demons out, Happiness in!”
After that, we collect beans not to waste them.

Why are the roasted beans used?
The Japanese word for beans is “mame/豆”, which is the homonyms of the word “mame/魔滅”, which means to kill demons. So, Japanese people believe that the beans are effective to drive away demons.

Beans must be roasted. If we missed even just one bean on the ground and it sprouted, it would be considered a bad omen.

We basically eat as many beans as our age because we believe it would make us healthy and live happily throughout the year. You may try throwing beans tonight! 

Since it’s difficult to eat 70 beans, we consider one bean as 10 years. So, a person at the age of 70 will eat 7 beans.

Eating the rolled sushi/恵方巻き

Eating the rolled sushi, Ehou-maki/恵方巻き, is another famous activity on Setsubun. There are three rules that we have to follow when eating it.

First, we have to face the lucky direction, south-southeast for 2021.
Second, we have to be quiet while eating it.
Third, we have to focus on eating and finish it in one sitting. Otherwise, our happiness will be gone.

When did this practice start? Around the 18th to 19th century, merchants and entertainers in Osaka started to celebrate Setsubun and wish for prosperous business while eating rolled sushi. 

Later in 1989, a convenient store in Hiroshima tried to boost their sales by selling a rolling sushi with this new practice. Since then, this practice has become popular across Japan and many Japanese have started to conduct this practice.

Depending on the area and family, the ingredients of the rolled sushi are different. Usually seven ingredients are in it named after lucky seven. Nowadays, seven different kinds of fish are rolled together, and other unique 7-ingredient sushi are available in the market.

Does your country have a similar seasonal event related to demons? Share it with us!

Next to -What’s TODAY?- no.2-



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