Monday, February 22, 2010

Setsubun Festival in Tokyo

Setsubun took place on February 3rd. Setsubun marks the change of season in Japan, welcoming spring. This is a really fun festival that the children had a taste of when we moved to Tokyo last year that we were looking forward to this year.

For Setsubun, we cast the demons out of our homes by throwing roasted soybeans at them, saying, "Oni wa soto! Fuku wa uchi!" or "Demons out! Luck in!"

Sam's class made oni (devil) masks and threw soybeans at each other. I did the more adult thing and went with friends from my neighborhood to Zozoji temple, which is near Tokyo Tower. Zozoji temple is famous for its Setsubun festivities.

The man in the photo at left brought his own little onis with him. He enjoyed the attention, but I am not so sure about his dog!

At Zozoji, there is a parade of monks from the temple, dressed in festival finery. Then the children from the local school parade in, and then people from the neighborhood who are born in the current zodiac year - the year of the tiger. After the parade, the festivities - for the audience - begin.

Local dignitaries and famous people throw small bags beans at the crowd. I guess this is much less messy than loose beans. I was in the crowd with my friends, trying to catch the beans. They also threw mochi rice cakes, snacks, candy and more soybeans.

There were specially labeled beans
that could be redeemed at a stand for
special prizes of restaurant meals, sake, and hotel stays. None of us were that lucky, but I did catch a bag of hard candy.

Then, men dressed as onis took the stage, and the children from the local school threw beans at them and chased them off. The kids were very enthusiastic! There were more snacks thrown, and mochi rice pounding onstage. All in all, very fun and festive.

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