Wednesday, February 3, 2010


This is my favorite monthly interior decoration. It is the coldest season in early February. a hibachi brazier, which was only heating appliance in the past, is sitting alone in the center of the room. It makes me feel severe coldness.

We associate an annual event in February with Setsubun(節分).
February 3rd or 4th is Setsubun in Japan. According to the lunar calendar, winter ends on this day. Originally Setsubun means each end of four seasons.

On the evening of this day, people throw roasted soybeans(peanuts in some areas) to a demon-masked man(mostly father's role) while shouting "fuku(福:Fortune) in and oni(鬼:demons out" to ward off evil spirits and attract good fortune.
People also eat the same number of beans as their age, wishing for health.
In ancient times, this event was held on New Year's Eve. Namahage Festival, in which demon-masked men with papier-mache knives go door-to-door saying "Naku-ko wa inega",
is held in the Oga Peninsula of Akita Prefecture on New Year's Eve (originally on January 15th).

Many people don't throw beans to avoid clean up spilled beans on the floor.
People living in the Kansai region eat uncut rolled sushi called Ehou-maki(恵方巻き) in silence for good luck, while facing in the year's auspicious direction (west-southwest this year).
This custom has been rapidly spreading to other parts of Japan due largely to marketing efforts by grocery and convenience stores. Recently Swiss rolls named "Ehou roll" have been released as an alternative to Ehou-maki.

Kotatsu is a small table with an electric heater underneath and covered by a quilt. Kotatsu and unshu mikan(温州蜜柑:Satsuma mandarin) always go together. Mikan is sweet, small and its skin is so thin that it can be peeled by hand very easily.

Some families will also put up small decorations of sardine heads and holly leaves on their house entrances so that bad spirits will not enter.
There are also dried sardines (held together by a bamboo skewer or string piercing the eye sockets) on the table. they are eaten in the Kansai Region on that day.
Spiky leaves of a holly stick into the eyes of demons and smoke and smell pouring from grilled sardines ward off demons.

This is a pincushion in the shape of peeled mikan. An original work was made in the latter half of the Edo Era.

「みかんの針刺し」 復元制作/水口艶子(原作/宮川すず)
"Mikan-no-harisashi" designed by Suzu Miyagawa, Tsuyako Mizuguchi
Tsuyako Mizuguchi(ed),Densyo-no-chirmenzaiku,(Tokyo:Graphsha inc.,1994),p.86.

These are oni and otafuku.
Otafuku(お多福:moon-faced woman) is a lucky charm to bring in good fortune.

「節分」 デザイン/戸上和子
"Setsubun" designed by Kazuko Togami
azuko Togami, Kisetsu-wo-Tanoshimu-Washi-no-Etegami 220(Tokyo:Nihon Vogue-sha,1999, p.24.

"Ofukusan(おふくさん)" in the shape of Otafuku
Buns filled with sweet bean paste.its dough made from yam. I shaped them with my fingers.

dry confection in the shape of "Otafuku"

Hatsuyume had referred to the dreams that occurred on the night of Setsubun (now January 2nd) until the early Edo period.
To ensure a good dream, people placed pictures of the ship of the Seven Gods of Good Fortune like this under their pillows in the Muromachi period.

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