Since the new year (by the luna calendar) begins with spring, traditionally the Japanese clean the house of evil spirits on Setsubun and welcome in good fortune for the coming year. A fun custom that most Japanese follow is to throw toasted soybeans at the chosen "ogre" and chase him out of the house. Dad usually get elected for this job and he dons an ogre mask while the rest of the family throw soybeans (traditionally carried in a small wooden box) and yell,
"Oni wa soto! Fuku wa uchi!" "Out with the ogre! In with luck!"
Last week at the pre-school all the children were busily making their ogre masks to take home and have their fathers wear yesterday. Great ogres! Even some with hands you'll notice!
After the beans are thrown you are supposed to brush them off (at least the ones that didn't end up in the mud and snow) and eat the same amount of beans as your age. Soy beans don't have a whole lot of taste but I guess the children are willing to eat 5 or 6 to bring good fortune into the house. My age? I'd need a bowl to hold all my beans so I quietly let the custom pass yesterday. I did buy some sweet bean cakes (that's stretching the meaning a bit far) and Tetsu and I enjoyed those with some hot tea.