Spring comes in with a bang in Japan – Setsubun, the first day of Spring
On February 3 Setsubun is celebrated in temples and neighborhood ceremonies throughout Japan with a riot of beans thrown out to chase away the demons and handfuls of beans thrown inside the house to welcome good fortune. Otafuku, the Goddess of Joy is the principal at this festivity and her smile dispels evil with a laugh and a giggle. This is where Blue & White comes in. Otafuku, the Goddess of Joy and good fortune is our own principal Goddess and we have her here in many forms. She is funny and good-natured, happiness personified. Wild masked red and blue devils are seen fleeing from the beans thrown at temples when she is around. This year the devils seem to be winning. They are charming and all around. But invariably Otafuku will have her way with them and they too will succumb to her charms.
Setsubun is celebrated throughout Japan but one of the major celebrations is at Daihon Oji, or Senbon Shakado in Kyoto, the Okame aka Otafuku temple where the historical figure of Okame is believed to have originated in the 13th century wife of the master carpenter of the temple who saved her husband’s building miscalculation with herquick wit and her prayer.
Other festivities are at Mibu Shrine in Kyoto, at Narita Shrine near Tokyo’s international airport, at Sensoji in Tokyo’s Asakusa, and even in Azabu Juban, Blue & White’s own neighborhood. Everyone in the community gathers around the portable shrine or the temple platform where people of the zodiac year – this year the year the rabbit – throw out beans and sweets from square wooden boxes called masu, to the crowds below. Crowds seem to increase in years of hard times when people put faith in these old traditions. Good fortune wins the day in the form of Otafuku and people enjoy the scramble for the beans and the shiver and giggle that the devils bring. It is one of our favorite free-for-all celebrations in Japan.
It restores our hope that bad spirits can ultimately be driven out of life and good fortune made welcome.
Why not give it a try !