Wednesday, February 4, 2009


Carl here...

Setsubun' on February 3rd is a special day in Japan, it's considered a part of the Spring Festival. It's a chance to cleanse away all evil of the previous year and start afresh by throwing soya beans at the devil!

Sugito Shirayuri Kindergarten

Sugito Shirayuri kindergarten has been teaching the kids about the festival, and its meaning. To make sure the kids are engaged, they've been making their own 'oni' or Japanese devil masks and costumes over the last week or so.

An example of Demon masks used in the festival
Picture taken from

Being the resident gaijin, I was nominated to be 'the devil', well, one of them, I was accompanied by one of the kindergarten bus drivers too. I had to wear some tiger pattern pants, and a multi coloured wig and then walk onto the stage and try to scare 250 children, who were sat waiting!

But they were well prepared... they all had cups filled with soyabeans and they were ready to throw them at us... whilst shouting... "Oni wa soto! Fuku wa uchi!" which means something like 'demons out! look in!'. Needless to say, 250 kids shouting and throwing things is enough to scare away anyone, even the devil!

The soya beans are thought to purify everything, keeping away the evil spirits that bring misfortune and ill health.

Cleansing the classroom
Once all the kids returned to their respective classrooms, the teachers led them through the same chants, though on a smaller scale. The teachers opened all the windows and doors, and the kids threw their imaginary soyabeans out of them whilst making the same chant "Oni wa soto! Fuku wa uchi!".

I do have a rather embarrasing photo of me in my costume, but it was taken with my phone so it's very low quality - that's my excuse, and I'm sticking to it...

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