When the cold subsides and the flowers take bloom, Japan’s Setsubun festival is celebrated to recognize the change of seasons.
To teach students about the tradition, UCA’s Japanese Club held a Setsubun celebration of its own Feb. 8. Setsubun means “division of the seasons” in Japanese, and the festival takes place at the coming of each season. The most common and popular Setsubun celebration occurs before the first day of spring, known as “Risshun” in Japanese.
This year Risshun was recognized as Feb. 3 in Japan. One of the ways Setsubun is celebrated is with a ritual called mamemaki, which consists of bean throwing. Mamemaki represents casting out the Oni, a Japanese demon, and bringing in good fortune.
At Setsubun festivals, people wear Oni masks while others throw roasted soybeans at them and shout “Oni wa soto. Fukuwa uchi,” which means, “Demons out. Good fortune in,” in English.
Another Setsubun tradition is the eating of ehomaki. Ehomaki, which means “lucky direction” eaten roll in Japanese, is a special type of sushi roll for Setsubun. People are supposed to make a wish before eating the roll in silence while facing the lucky direction. This year’s lucky direction is southeast.
Ehomaki is made of seven ingredients,which represent the seven Japanese gods of fortune. The ingredients are simmered shiitake mushrooms and kanpyo, cucumber, rolled omelet, eels, sakura denbu and seasoned koyadofu. It is eaten whole rather than sliced into rolls so that “relationships are not cutoff.”
Eating roasted soybeans is also thought to bring good luck. The number of beans a person eats represents his age, plus one.The Setsubun celebration hosted by the Japanese Club hit all the highlights of the festival.
First, students met in Torreyson West where there was an assortment of snacks and drinks prepared. There, junior Japanese Club President Reigi Ichikawa taught people holiday.
“I wanted everyone to know what Setsubun is and why Setsubun is so important to Japanese people,” Ichikawa said.
Seven people then volunteered to eat the ehomaki. The sushi was made by Ichikawa using a Japanese omelet, cucumber, imitation crab, tuna and teriyaki chicken.They ate in silence while facing the lucky direction while other members and attendees talked. Next was the mamemakito cast out the Oni. Ichikawa asked for three volunteers to play the Oni.
The volunteers then put on Oni masks before everyone headed outside to commence with the soybean throwing.One of the volunteers was junior Alexis Hoard. Hoard came in the middle of the event when attendees were being asked to volunteer. She accepted before knowing what was going to happen.
“Throughout the discussion they explained how they would be throwing beans at me, so that was a little shocking.” Hoard said.
Everyone shouted the traditional chant before tossing the soybeans at the volunteers portraying the Oni. They then gave others a chance to play the role of the Oni. This event marked an important festival in Japan and informed and entertained students.
“I had a lot of fun and I learned something new about the culture too, so that was awesome,” Hoard said.
Photo by Lauren Swaim.