Life in Japan

Celebrating 節分 Setsubun

4 February 2016

What is 節分 Setsubun?

It literally translates to “season division” but usually refer to the change of season to spring. Setsubun is the day before 立春 Risshun, the first day of spring. This year, it falls on February 3 (yesterday), so yay! Spring is officially here!!! Can’t wait for spring weather and all the spring flowers! [See last year’s plum blossoms and cherry blossoms ❀]

How is Setsubun celebrated?

As a ritual to purify the past year’s evils, beans are thrown either out the door or at the male head of the household who’ll wear a demon mask, while shouting 「鬼は外!福は内!」(Oni wa soto! Fuku wa uchi!) “Demons out! Good fortune in!”

Then, to complete the amassing of good fortune, roasted soybeans are eaten, in the amount of the age of that person (and in some areas, they eat their age +1 for extra good fortune, because they’re greedy like that).

We didn’t do this because it’s messy, and it’s cold outside. Although on hindsight, it would have been pretty fun to fling beans at Fu lol. Maybe next year? :D

So what did we do?

Another tradition is to eat 恵方巻き ehomaki (pronounced eh-ho-ma-ki) on Setsubun.

It used to be a Kansai custom, but recently propagated to Kanto too (likely by the opportunistic salespeople).

No matter, I’m happy to have any excuse to eat sushi!

The above is an example of the ehomaki that was on sale. Every conbini rolled out their own version of ehomaki (pun intended) and even accepted pre-orders for them.

Instead of buying, we made our own at home!

One of the prerequisites of an ehomaki is that it contains 7 ingredients (because lucky #7). I only had 6 at home so I told Fu to pick something from the supermarket on his way home. I gave some suggestions like salmon, minced tuna, or ikura but otherwise left it to him to decide.

He came home with… a slab of grilled teriyaki chicken meat… and… grilled miso salmon.


I assure you we have never put such things into our homemade sushi before and when I asked what possessed him to buy them, he simply shrugged and said “I felt like eating them.”

Okay. Sure. We can work with them.

Yep, there’s the chicken and fish. I sliced the chicken up so that we can at least fit it into the sushi roll.

Before rolling it up

There are certain things to observe while eating ehomaki:

  1. There must be 7 ingredients in the roll
  2. The roll must be uncut (otherwise you’re cutting off your good fortune)
  3. It must be eaten in absolute silence (if you speak, the good fortune flies away)
  4. It must be eaten while facing the lucky direction for that year (this year it’s 南南東 South-South-East)

I checked the direction to face with an iPhone app and we ate it in complete. silence.

Quietest meal ever.

When I finally finished, Fu asked “Did you bite off from the roll?” When I replied yes, he said “I thought we weren’t supposed to cut it because it’s not lucky? If you bite it off, isn’t it like cutting it off? I ate it all while it was still connected!”

I sat in silence, thinking back to all the pages of info I read. None mentioned having to eat it like he did. But damn. Since we’re doing it, let’s cover all the grounds and do it perfectly!

So I redid my ehoumaki-eating by making a fresh roll. This time, I ate it with the roll in my mouth all the way. I felt like a squid feeding through a tube. The seaweed did not break off at any point. Nope. Not once.

Well, guess this means we are going to pretty lucky this year!

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