Celebrating Setsubun With Pan-kun
Yesterday was Setsubun, a festival celebrating the beginning of spring. As part of the festivities, pan-heated soybeans are thrown for good luck:
Setsubun has been celebrated in many ways, but perhaps the most common custom found throughout Japan is the traditional Mame Maki or the scattering/throwing of beans (mame) to chase away the evil oni (ogres, evil spirits, as depicted in the illustration which heads this article). In some ritual forms, the Toshi Otoko [literally “year man” but referring either to the “man of the house” or to men who are born in the animal sign of the coming year (rat for the year 2008)] will throw mame within the house or at someone perhaps dressed as oni and repeat the saying Oni wa Soto; Fuku wa Uchi (Get out Ogre! Come in Happiness!). After the ritual throwing of the beans, family members may then pick up the number of beans corresponding to their age; eating these brings assurance of good fortune in the coming year. These days, of course, it is not uncommon to see children dressed in masks of oni, others madly throwing beans, and all gleefully shouting for evil to hit the road. Prominent temples in Japan may also find monks or celebrities showering large crowds of people with mame to ward off spirits and welcome the renewal of the coming New Year.
Apparently super chimpanzee Pan-kun was not aware of how the Japanese celebrate Setsubun, so on Saturday night’s Shimura Zoo, Becky stopped by and taught him about the holiday. You can watch this video and follow along with the customs as they are performed [note: having your nose picked by a chimpanzee is not a Setsubun custom]:
And as an added bonus, some footage of a
walrus oni having some ice beans thrown at it:
[Post script: If you’re looking for some very cheap snacks, Setsubun beans should now be available in the bargain rack at a Japanese supermarket near you!]