Today, being the first day of spring on some ancient Japanese calendar, aka Setsubun, we threw dried soy beans at the oni. Jio wanted to wear the oni mask this year, so he and his dad donned masks (I really meant to take photos, but the batteries in the digital camera weren’t charged; maybe tomorrow) and Lilia and I tossed beans. Meanwhile, my mother-in-law picked up the beans from the floor. Oni is sometimes translated as ogre, but it’s a very special Japanese kind of demon. In picture books they have red or blue skin, curly black hair, two horns sticking out of their heads, and fangs. They tend to go around in loin cloths, swinging clubs like cavemen. The oni supposedly comes out on this night and if you throw dried beans at him while shouting “Oni wa soto! Fuku wa uchi” (“Out with the oni! In with happiness!”) he will go away. And then you eat the number of beans that corresponds with your age in order to insure good health, etc.

Lilia, ever the ham, put on her pink cape and Power Rangers mask (actually, Maji Ranger here in Japan) in order to confront the oni. My little girl, the superheroine!


One thought on “Setsubun

  1. Very interesting! From your description of oni, it sounded similar to the Korean tokkaebi, so I googled for images and there is quite a similarity. The tokkaebi is sometimes scary and sometimes funny. In some children’s books, it looks friendly and cartoonish, but there are also much more demonic portrayals.

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