on the february 3rd, we japanese celebrate setsubun (“season’s divide”). in the old japanese calendar, there was a set starting date for each season (spring: rissyun, summer: rikka, autumn: rissyuu, winter: ritto). the day before each season started was called setsubun. but eventually, setsubun came to mean only the day before the first day of spring, rissyun.
on setsubun, you throw mame (roasted soybeans) at oni (demons). you’re supposed to throw the beans out the front door, chanting “oni wa soto, fuku wa uchi” (“demons get out, good fortune comes in”). oni are pretty scary monsters, with gigantic iron clubs, obachan (old-woman-style) perms and sharp teeth sticking out of their mouth (they seriously need braces). they come in different skin colours: red, blue, green, yellow, black and pink!
if you go to a supermarket in japan during setsubun season, you can buy a package of roasted soybeans that come with a paper oni mask. at home, my dad was the one who was the oni. he’d put the mask on and my brother and i would throw beans at him — gently. but i always wanted to be the oni.
since you can’t buy an oni mask in canada, i knew i’d have to make one myself. but i got so busy making maki-sushi that i almost forgot. when paul phoned me to say he was on his way home from work, i only had ten minutes. i’d been planning to make soup, but forget that — i had to make that mask. after all, this was my oni debut.
of course, my instant mask turned out pretty crappy. and it was hard to eat uncut maki-sushi with a mask on (especially since i didn’t cut a mouth hole). at least the soybeans were delicious (“oni wa soto, mame wa oishii“)
it’s hard, being an oni.