Staff room, 10 minute break after third period. Propped against my laptop: a little package, couple of inches across. White with red trim and two red kanji. Inside: dried soy beans. Cast a glance over to Kitano Sensei - teacher of mathematics and Buddhist priest; setting difficult problems by day and tackling the bigger, more enduring ones by night. 'These beans' I'm told, 'are for Setsubun'. 'Setsubun' says I in the tone I've evolved of late which is intended to mask ignorance and infer the notion I know what's being discussed and am not entirely ignorant. No one falls for it. 'Setsubun' they inform me 'is when beans are flicked'. (Those of you with a comprehensive knowledge of smutty terminology may laugh at 'bean flicking' - I must admit to a suppressed chuckle myself. Child).

My explanation would no doubt be wordy and innacurate - I'm also extremely lazy. Here's something illegally reproduced from the website of the Japanese embassy in, for the fun of it, Denmark:

Setsubun refers to the division between winter and spring. The term originally referred to the eve of the first day of any of the 24 divisions of the solar year known as Setsu. Later, it came to be applied more specifically to the last day of the Setsu called Daikan (great cold), (Great cold? No shit.) which corresponded to the eve of Risshun (the first day of spring), the New Year's day of the ancient solar calendar and the traditional beginning of spring. Since Risshun and the traditional celebration of New Year fell at about the same time, Setsubun became associated with those rites of purification and exorcism of evil deemed essential to preparing one self for the coming year and the spring planting season.

So how to get those evil prescences on the run?. How? Soy beans! Dried Soy beans! And what to do with them? Let's ignore the fact it's historically the coldest week of winter, throw our doors and windows wide open, grab a handful of these dried beans, chuck 'em outside (first checking for passersby, cats, other easily startled things etc) and yell 'Fuku wa uchi, oni wa soto!' ('Fortune in, demons out!'). So simple. If William Friedkin had been aware of this 'The Exorcist' could have been a much shorter film.

Have been practicing the old 'Fuku wa uchi...' all day and finally feel ready to get out there and have them oni's (demons) hoofing it back to their lairs where they'll huddle together in their greasy loincloths and think twice about giving any of the old evil to the crazy gaijin with the admirable throwing arm.

'Him? Were not cursing him. He's got beans, for Satan's sake. BEANS I tell you!'


Blogger Jefu reckons...

My favorite part is eating maki-zushi in silence while facing southeastward. What a strange way to celebrate something as basic as the change of seasons? Of course us humans have been known to adopt some strange practices in the name of divine auspice.

9:37 午後 JST  
Blogger pik reckons...

Dude, this year you were supposed to face West-South-West. Oh dear, that's an oni infestation you've brought upon yourself.

10:24 午後 JST  


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