Originally uploaded by anyram.
Today was setsubun -- a day when Japanese children are encouraged to throw beans at people to banish evil winter spirits and welcome good spirits. I was invited to go to the local shrine with the kindergarten kids to help out. We lined up and waited in the cold until the temple attendants came out. At the sound of a drum, we were pelted with roasted soybeans, which we raced to pick up. If you want to be lucky for the year, you are supposed to eat as many beans as you have years. And since I didn't eat any kutya this year, I'll need all the help I can get!
Usually, teachers or parents dress up as oni (鬼 being one of my very favorite kanji), or demons and the students throw beans and yell at them to scare them away. Having borne the brunt of a 30 member strong kindergarten unit, I shudder to think how much damage they could cause when armed with beans. Oni are red or blue, with lots of hair, horns and big teeth. I think they're kind of cute. We didn't do any of that, but it was still a really neat event to take part in. After gathering up our beans so we could have good luck, we were all given big bags of candy and sent back inside before we froze solid.