Thursday, January 31, 2008

Springtime ogres

In her excellent children's book I Live in Tokyo, author/illustrator Mari Takabayashi writes about Setsubun, Feb. 3, the day before the first day of spring (according to the old solar calendar). On this day children are known to throw roasted soybeans, a.k.a. soynuts, at a pretend demon -- or real person wearing an Oni mask -- while shouting, 'Out with the ogre! In with the happiness.' In other words, Oni wa soto! Fuku wa uchi! (Demons out! Luck in!) The Oni of Japanese folklore are often depicted as scary trolls with red or blue skin, claws, wild hair and horns. Maybe we'll make our own Oni mask and have the boys throw roasted soybeans at T's head on Sunday. That would be fun. Apparently you can also throw the beans out your front door to help drive away misfortune. Another thing to do on Setsubun, I'm told, is to eat the same number of soynuts as you are in years. You can buy the bland bits in cute packaging to give as gifts. I bought these at the supermarket:

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