My latest Post.

This view,this beauty
A tear unbidden
Creeps into my eye.

My stay is short
But I shall return to this place
If only my life is long enough.

Such beauty
Gazing upon it
I hope my years are many.

Bokusui Wakayama.

Saturday, February 4, 2012


   In all of my posts to date (all 14 of them) I have mentioned many customs celebrated in Japan - "Hatsumode", "Shogatsu", "Omisoka","Shichi-Go-San". All, in their own way, unique to Japan and the Japanese people (my opinion). I personally couldn't say which one I enjoy celebrating the most. It's the opportunity to take part in a custom, that is part of a countries culture, that gives me the most pleasure (I will add a footnote at the end of this post, that will explain where I am coming from, with regards to the above comment).
   "Setsubun" I look forward to celebrating because it intrigues me immensely. Celebrated yearly, on February 3rd (the day before the beginning of Spring in Japan), the term literally means "seasonal division" and is celebrated to welcome in Spring according to the "Lunar New Year" (it was previously thought of as a sort of New Years Eve) and, to do that, an incredible ritual has been developed as part of this festival (I will leave the attached links to provide you with all the finer details of Setsubun).
   This post will concentrate on "Mamemaki" (Bean-Throwing Ceremony) and "Makizushi" (Rolled Sushi) and how it is celebrated in the "Barcock" house.
   There are five main ingredients required for this custom, two of them being "Yours Truly" and my "Dearly Beloved".

Makizushi - rolled Sushi.
Fortune Beans - soya beans.

   The custom begins with "Mamemaki" (the throwing of the soya-beans), which first appeared in the "Muromachi Period"  and, if there is no "Toshiotoko" (a male who was born on the corresponding animal year on the Chinese Zodiac) in the house, then it falls on the male head of the family, in this case, Me.
"Bean Throwing".
   We now proceed to the door, in this case the door leading to the balcony, and throw the beans while reciting the words "Oni wa Soto! Fuki wa uchi!" ("Demons out! Luck in!") then slamming the door behind me in case any demon follows me inside. At this point I may suggest to you, if you live any higher than the 2nd-floor of an apartment building, to opt for the alternative (beans thrown from the 30th-floor can cause some serious injuries to the poor blighter on the ground), and that is to don an "Oni" Mask and allow the beans to be thrown at the wearer.

    Following the bean-throwing ceremony we then proceed to eat uncut Makizushi or "Echo-Maki" ( "Lucky Direction Roll") in silence while facing the yearly lucky compass direction. This is determined by the Zodiac symbol of that year, in this case, the Dragon, and the lucky direction this year is; West-Northwest.
Setting for East-Southeast.
   Being a person of (many) obsessions I want to be as precise as I can, and, having the compass set facing the right direction is important to the custom (I won't get into the debate as to the accuracy of the compass).

  Two down, and one to go. Phase-3, eating the Makizushi in silence. In some households "Shogazake", or Ginger Sake, is  customarily consumed as part of the ritual (much the same as "Egg-Nog" is common during the Christmas celebration) but, in our case, we didn't have any (I thought of everything else, I wonder why I forgot the alcohol?). 
   The 3rd February is a double celebration for us. It is also "Okaasan's (Mother) birthday. So I would like to dedicate this post to her and wish her "Otanjoubi Omedetou".

   Footnote;  At the beginning of this post I touched on the respect and appreciation I hold for a countries (and individuals) culture and the joy I experience when I take part in a custom or celebration. I want to explain where this feeling originates from.
   Back when I was in my early-20's I met a Maori girl and we had a 4-year relationship. During those four years I had the opportunity to experience many aspects of the Maori culture firsthand. I was honoured  to have met and associated with Wiata's (her Maori name) Whanau. Before meeting Wiata I had never had any association with Maori and, out of ignorance, I referred to them as "Hori's" (a derogatory term). At the end of the relationship, I came-away with a very different perspective of the Maori and what it is like to be part of a culture. I have an envy of people who have a culture that they can be identified by. As a non-Maori "Aotearoan" I feel I have little to be proud of as far as my identity is concerned. Here in Japan, when participating in a custom, it gets nothing less of 100% of my respect and attention.

No comments:

Post a Comment