WHEN EAST MEETS WEST
Commentary by Hank F. Miller Jr.
Setsubun rituals carried out throughout Japan every year around February 3rd. Setsubun is celebrated the day before "risshun,"referring to the start of the spring season.The ritual itself involves scattering roasted beans both inside and outside the house while loudly reciting the words,"Oniwa-soto, "Fukuwa-uchi,"which means"out with the demons!"In with good fortune."Of course,the aim of this ritual is to keep the house safe from harm while inviting good luck to come inside.
The ritual has become a production of sorts at large temples where a demon dressed in costume appears on the stage and famous people are invited to throw and scatter the beans.The roasted beans are said to be imbued with spiritual power,so on this day people"eat their age"in beans,eating the same number of beans as they are in years of age(or their age plus one and offer a prayer for good fortune).In some regions, demons are considered a kind of (protective deity) rather than bad spirits, So people say "Demons within , good fortune within.
Other customs associated with setsubun include the use of sprigs of holly that are specially prepared to decorate the household gate.The holly leaves have sharp points on which one pierces the heads of sardines.This custom which became widespread form the Edo period on is based on the belief that the smell of raw fish and the thorns on the holly will keep demons away, that is if the neighbors cats don't eat the sardines first!
Warm Regards, & Best Wishes from Kitakyushu City, Japan, looking forward to the coming spring !
Hank F. Miller Jr.
Note: Hank, is a former resident of Gloucester City who resides in Kitakyushu City, Japan.