February 3rd was Setsubun in Japan, or the Bean-Throwing festival. The name literally means dividing seasons, and it’s a pre-Spring tradition during which the Japanese invite good fortune into their homes for the coming year.
Last night at Parish House, which is the language interest house on campus, we celebrated Setsubun with sushi night (what better?). It was a special kind of sushi in meaning, called ehoumaki. Ehoumaki is supposed to contain 7 ingredients, shouldn’t be cut so as not to cut off your luck, and must be eaten in total silence while facing that year’s specific lucky direction (for 2013, south-southeast). Many people’s luck must have left them that night, since I’m not sure anyone managed to remember not to talk while eating the roll.
Also, we ran out of rice twice. Never a good sign.
Some would say that what follows in the Setsubun festival, the actual way the Japanese usher luck into their homes, is taking a metaphor too far.
You have some member(s) of your household dress up as the oni, or the evil spirit of bad luck. Then you throw beans at them to get them out of your house. Typically, these beans are used (beans are very lucky in Japan):
but we’re in Minnesota so we used peanuts instead. Do you know how fun it is to be aided and abetted in throwing peanuts at people?
The Japanese language associate on campus hosts Japanese cultural activities several times a week--there’s movie night, and tea time, during which we make and eat Japanese snacks, and Japanese Language Table, at which students and Japanese language faculty congregate in the LDC dining hall and converse in Japanese so that the native speakers can stay in practice and students of the language can practice their speaking skills. It's always a great study breather and the Japanophile community's pretty close-knit on campus.
Happy Setsubun! May good fortune be bestowed upon you.