Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Setsubun - The Official Start to Spring

Today is the Setsubun festival (節分祭り, setsubun matsuri), which is the day when winter officially ends, and spring begins. Personally, I think 3rd February is a bit early to welcome spring, even in Japan! But who am I to argue with the lunar calendar...

Setsubun is known as the 'bean throwing festival', because at temples and shrines up and down Japan, famous/ important people throw little packets of beans into the crowd, and if you catch one then it's good luck. You're also meant to eat the same amount of beans as your age, so 20 in my case.

There's more information about Setsubun here.

Rob, Katy, Melanie, Andrea and I cycled from ICU to the nearby Jindai-ji temple (深大寺), which took about 20 minutes. The surrounding area we went through had a really nice feel to it, and parts of it actually felt a lot like Britain!

We had some time before the actual bean throwing, so we wandered around the grounds and bought some traditional food to snack on.

There's already some blossom coming out, even though it's still pretty cold. It's mainly plum blossom (梅, ume), but there's one cherry tree (桜, sakura) in ICU that's starting to bloom.

There was still some snow left on the roofs of buildings.

After about an hour, we headed up to the stage that was set up by the main temple building.

There wasn't much of a crowd, but it quickly filled up. There were three bean throwing events during the day, and we were at the last one, so lots of people probably went earlier in the day.

The first event was a comedy duo, a rather unfunny one though!

After that, there was a procession behind us, which was quite difficult to see.

Then there was some fantastic traditional drumming on the stage.

After the drumming performances, the famous actors and singers, and important people filed onto stage. Of course we had no idea who any of them were, but some of them seemed to be quite a big deal, judging by the audience's reaction.

Then they all started to throw the bags of beans into the crowd.

Sorry for the quality of this video, I was manhandled by an old woman who fought her way past me to pick up a bag that had fallen to the ground!

I caught two bags myself, and Rob caught about four! So Rob and I gave a bag each to Melanie and Andrea, who hadn't been able to catch any.

It was a lot of fun, and hopefully I'll be lucky after catching two bags! (Although they were giving out bags at the exit to people who hadn't caught any, so everyone gets a bit of the luck!)

That evening Rob and I sat in my room and ate 20 beans each for good luck. They were already roasted, so they were fine to eat as they were. You can also buy them in shops. Roll on Spring!

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