Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Out with the devil and in with happiness (and spring!)

It is hardly spring here. Getting to school this morning took twice as long as usual because of all the ice on my car I had to scrape off and all of the snow on the country roads that needs to be scraped off.

Nevertheless, Feb. 3rd is Setsubun (which means "seasonal division" in Japanese) -- the start of spring. Ha!

According to Japanese tradition, this is the time of year when evil spirits--called "oni"--need to be chased away from your home. I've seen and heard "oni" translated into English as both "devil" and "ogre."

The drawings I saw of "oni" at Kosode Elementary on Monday look more like devils than ogres.

So what is the (not-so) secret weapon to get rid of these little devils??...

Peanuts! Or beans. I guess beans are the traditional thing to throw at evil, but apparently peanuts do the job, too. Otherwise, there wouldn't be so many bags of peanuts underneath the giant devil/ogre head at the store...

Today at Yamane Jr. High School, I was taught what to shout at the oni. "Oni wa soto! Fuku wa uchi!" It means "Out with the devil! In with happiness!" We acted out it out in the classroom, with poor Yuya as the designated devil. Check it out...

When the peanuts (and non-intimidating laughter) don't work, you then have to get serious and resort to karate!! Just kidding. But too bad the video stops before you see me retaliating with my mad ninja skills. ;)

After Yamane Jr. High School, I went to Yamane Elementary School, where we also did the whole peanut fight thing in the classroom. This time I was one of the victims! I mean, one of the devils...

What an interesting devilish ogre I make, wearing a cross necklace!

I took a break being devilish so I could take this video of the madness...(and mainly so I could stop getting beat up by my students!!)

After battle, the real fun begins because you have to pick up the peanuts that are all over the place. You're supposed to eat the number of peanuts (or beans) that corresponds to your age. I wasn't keeping count, but I'm sure I ate more than 23; I've been eating peanuts all day long.

I was left with three questions after these oni-ridding experiences:

1. Do folks really believe that there are devils in their home??

Nah, not really. It's more of an old belief. Now it's just a custom to throw peanuts, and usually the man of the house dresses as an oni.

2. Is Setsubun a national holiday?

No. It's considered a festival. Interestingly, Japanese people don't consider Valentine's Day a holiday either even though they celebrate it.

3. Last but not least...Can it please really be the start of spring!?


Tina said...

I love that big, happy demon face in the photo of the store!

Lauren said...

This is a very interesting thing to do! What do they think of our groundhog day tradition?

Dawn said...

The demon face was kinda cool. Interesting tradition to throw peanuts...but us crazy Americans do crazy stuff too, like Groundhog Day.