Today, February 3, is Setsubun, the day known as bean throwing day. Thoughts of the coming spring, driving away evil spirits and eating roasted beans for good luck, are all encapsulated in the humble soybean. Unknowingly, dinner tonight was centered around the bean: miso soup with tofu and crysanthemum leaves and natto, fermented soybeans, on white rice. It was simple fare since it was just my mother and me, and we had to hustle to the local shrine for the annual Setsubun festival. The shrine was filled with local residents who sat in the inner sanctuary of the shrine while the priest recited a prayer. After the formal prayer service, we all stand up, grab a handful of beans and say, "Fuku wa uchi, oni wa soto!" (Happiness inside, evil spirit outside!). Taiko drums start beating and a couple of red costumed oni (demon/evil spirit) appear to torment people. We throw our beans up in the air and at the oni, too! The best part is that this is all done inside the shrine and not outside.
I received my blessed charm, pictured above. I need to place this in a high spot in the house, and it will bring good luck. I also have to eat the beans next to the charm. I've already counted them, it's exactly the number of my age. Fuku wa uchi, oni wa soto. Good luck, here I come!