Spring Has Sprung… and Will Again

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Yesterday was Setsubun (節分), so I will continue my tradition of providing a little more detail each year. Telling you that Setsubun marks the end of winter and beginning of Spring is only part of the truth. Kanji characters for setsubun literally translate as “seasonal division”, but there have been many traditions of when to identify the beginning of seasons.

Taiyoureki (太陽暦) is the solar calendar. On that calendar we usually consider Spring to start after the Vernal Equinox, or Shunbun no Hi (春分の日), which falls on March 20th.

Inreki (陰暦) is the lunar calendar. On that calendar Spring commences with the new year, but the new year starts in February usually. Nijuushi Sekki (二十四節気) or Taiintaiyoureki (太陰太陽暦) is a calendar designed to match up with the changes in seasons. It involved dividing the year into 24 segments. This seems to have developed from Greek origins and came to Japan – as the kyuureki (旧暦) – through China

Most traditional people consider Setsubun to be the beginning of Spring and accept the modern equinox holiday as the middle of Spring, but others use the standard Western definition.

A group of foreigners gathered and went to Kannonji (観音寺) to watch the official proceedings, which included: dancing drummers; geisha; priests with a giant sword; beauty pageant winners; various dignitaries; and three people in demon costumes (one red, one yellow, and one green). The demons were ceremonially vanquished on the stage, then everyone threw lucky bags of beans to us. I managed to catch one.

A group of photographers got excited when our gang started having a bean fight in the spirit of the festival. I imagine that will probably at some of the photo exhibits later.

Giant fortune cookies were for sale as well. The “bigger than your head” size runs about 4000 yen and the “only slightly smaller than your head” size runs about 1300 yen.

Most of us headed to an international cooking exchange in the evening. Morocco; Indonesia; Germany; Italy; Turkey; and Japan were all represented. I would have to say the Bubur Ayam took the cake. That is a dish served for breakfast in Indonesia, which was almost worth moving to be able to eat it everyday.

When we have these events, there is significant effort to make some foods which meet various religious restrictions and to clearly identify the ingredients in all the foods. I was surprised when one person from an Islamic country was going on about not being able to eat a certain dish. Members of another such country were reassuring him about the ingredients and their was some confusion. At some point I realized what he was saying: the meat was not halaal. Much like the difference between what the Bible considers “clean” and the legalistic process of certifying something as “kosher”, there is a similar distinction for different types of Muslims. The dish didn’t contain anything outside of the rules, but it had not been classified “halaal”. As a strict adherent to these standards, he could not eat the dish. I always feel more at ease when I understand what’s going on around me. It seemed that he also was more at ease knowing that someone understood what he was saying.

These cooking events always go off well, and last night was no exception. A few years ago English seemed to be the common tongue, but I think the average language ability level of foreigners in Tsu has been going up and most of the people were conversing in Japanese.

At the end of the evening the had me put on the blue demon mask and everyone pelted me with beans.

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3 Responses to “Spring Has Sprung… and Will Again”

  1. Sylvia Says:

    It seems Japan and Islam have something in common–one stop on the Haj is pelting stone “demons” with rocks. Some say it’s a stand-in for human sacrifice. Creepy.

  2. fightingwindmills Says:

    Sounds like fun. *throwing virtual beans at you*

  3. Sylvia Says:

    Just to be clear, I’m not saying it’s just the Haj ritual that is creepy, but all similar “kill the bad guy” rituals. I think we need to get beyond killing as the solution to bad guys wherever possible.

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