Good morning everyone,

Yesterday was a bit warm, wasn't it? If it had been sunny, it would have felt like summer in Canada! The high was 18C!  Today we'll see a high of only 14C, but it'll be a bit sunnier. Tuesday will be cooler again with a high of 9C-but it'll still be sunny (well a mix of sun and clouds-but at least it won't be raining!). The rest of the week will see cloudier weather and highs between 9C and 11C and a chance of rain the end of the week...

Well, it's Setsubun. Here's some help in explaining the day in English. Is everything right?

Setsubun (せつぶん or 節分) guide

The basics of celebrating setsubun

February 3 is Setsubun (せつぶん or 節分) in Japan. People all over Japan hold various ceremonies. Here is a general guide to setsubun in Japan.

Setsubun means "the changing of the season". Japanese people used to celebrate this four times a year; Spring, Summer, Autumn and Winter but now it's only really celebrated this time of year-'spring' according to the Chinese lunar calendar.

Ancient Japanese belived that the world tends to become unstable during the transition of the seasons (Setsubun). Therefore, they used to hold various ceremonies to prevent ogres or goblins (depending on how you translate "oni") from coming to their towns or homes.

But in contemporary Japan, people are too busy so people only celebrate the Spring Setsubun because Spring represents a new start from winter.

The following day, Feburary 4th, 2011 is called Risshun (Lichun or りっしゅん or 立春) - the beginning of Spring.

What to do during Setsubun?

The two most common ways to celebrate setsubun are Mamemaki (まめまき or 豆まき) and eating Eho-maki (えほうまきお or 恵方巻き).

 Mame-maki (まめまき or 豆まき)

setsubun mamemaki

Mamemaki means "throwing soybeans". The rules of this ritual are varied depends on the regions.

Basically, the people throw a handful of soybeans out of their front door to drive Oni (Japanese ogres) or bad luck away. Then you throw soybeans into your house inviting good luck in.

Oni wa Soto!

When you throw soybeans outside of your house, you shout "Oni wa soto (おには そと)", which means "Oni! Get out (of my house)!".

If you have kids, dad or grandpa usually dress up like Oni, and the kids throw soybeans at them. If you go to any Japanese supermarket or department store, you can ususally find cheap Oni masks.

Fuku wa Uchi!

When you throw soybeans inside, you shout, "Fuku wa uchi (ふくはうち)", which means "Luck! Come on in".

If you go to a famous temple, you might see a celebrity, athlete or local politician throwing soybeans to the people. In local shrines you might see Toshi-otoko (としおとこ or 年男) or Toshi-onna (としおんな or 年女) throwing soybeans out.

Toshi-otoko & Toshi-onnna are the men and women who are the age of 12, 24, 36 etc that year. Basically, if the year matches your Chinese zodiac year, you are a toshi-otoko or toshi-onna for that whole year.

Eat your mame (soybeans)

At the end of the Mamemaki, you should eat the same number of soybeans as your age will be this year.

For instance, if you were born in 1980, you would eat 34 soybeans this year because you will turn 34 years old in 2014.

Eating Eho-maki (えほうまき or 恵方巻き)

setsubun ehomaki

Eho-maki is a large sushi roll with 7 ingredients. Usually maki is cut into bite-sized pieces, but during setsubun, you don't cut the maki. You need to hold the whole thing in your hands and eat it without stopping!

The ritual was only popular in Osaka area for a long time. But it started becoming popular throughout Japan starting in the early 2000s.

Eho (えほう or 恵方) means "good-luck side (or direction)". Maki (まき or 巻) means "roll".

When you eat Eho-maki, you must face to Eho (good-luch side). The Eho of 2014 is East/North East. You must close your eyes the whole time, and you can not talk until you finish eating. While eating, think about what you want to achieve after the spring and it will come true if you keep your eyes closed and don't talk. 

What will you think about tomorrow while eating your eho-maki?

Have a great day!

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