Bean-throwing at Setsubun

.. There was a Setsubun bean-throwing ceremony today at the home where I am living. I believe that this world has no room for devils, so I was rather reluctant to attend this ceremony, in which we would be expected to chase away devils by throwing beans at them. Someone told me, though, I had no choice this year as all born in the Year of the Monkey were expected to take part. So, with some hesitation, I joined. Before the ceremony, we were served bean tea, which was pleasant enough, although its taste was something I had almost forgotten. Soon, roasted beans were distributed in lacquered wooden boxes, but for a while we sat around with them on the table, talking about different things. I could not refrain myself from putting some beans in my mouth, for I was eager to taste them. Immediately, a fond memory came back. During the Wartime evacuation, for the first time in my life, I was sent to a boarding house as the middle school where I studied was too far away from home, and my mother had often given me roasted beans to use for my snacks. I shared them with my friends at times, but more often I ate them hiding under my coverlet just to fill my empty stomach. I discovered that the taste of roasted beans had not changed at all, although so many things had changed since the end of the War.
……….. I find roasted beans
……….. Very refreshing indeed —
……….. Their modest sweetness.
.. We soon started out on our devil-hunting with the boxes of roasted beans. We were told that we should scatter beans at the entrances to our residence halls, always throwing them from indoors to outdoors, even when we were calling good luck to come in. I thought this strange instruction might be due to the fact that the sweeping up of beans indoors would not be so easy. Those thrown outdoors would surely be cleaned up by the little birds. When we reached the entrance of one of the residence halls, I was surprised to see a devil standing in front of it. The figure was garbed in coarse black cloth and held a bamboo branch against its shoulder with little devil masks hanging from it, some red and others blue. The figure itself wore on its head the angry mask of a devil. Naturally, we all threw beans at this figure, shouting ‘Devils out!’, and gradually, it retreated, then turned to run away. Once again, I was surprised, for the mask had been reversed to show the benign face of a woman.
……….. Merely turned around,
……….. The devil’s mask can gently smile
……….. As Lady Fortune.

4 Responses to “Bean-throwing at Setsubun”

  1. Ursula Maierl Says:

    Lovely. The demon reminds me of having seen carved masks of Krampus in an exhibition in Austria: Krampus was the fearsome companion of St Nicholas, and would birch the wicked children.
    I recall my father telling me how scary it was, as a child, being chased or threatened by him. An entertaining tale, but on seeing the masks, even as an adult they inspired a certain fear. “I believe that this world has no room for devils…’ and yet…
    The dual aspects of the demon and the benign face reminds me of the two faces of Janus, and also the Nio temple guardians.
    The memories the roasted beans evoke are very poignant.
    evocations, all .I find it very intriguing in the haiku that the the taste of the beans is granted the unusual quality of modesty.The memories evoked by the roasted beans are very poignant.

  2. An enjoyable story on several levels. I particularly liked the linking of the roasted beans to a childhood memory, and returning to the present to share the devil-hunting experience in a light-hearted tone. I also like how words related to the senses are used in the first poem (5-7-5) to evoke your experience of eating roasted beans.

  3. Hisashi Miyazaki Says:

    Thanks to Sosui-sensei’s haibun, I also reminded of the memory that I was a very small, always-hungry infant just after the War, when foods were scanty. On a Setsubun day, my mother cleaned the room unusually in the evening and after dinner, I had the bean-throwing ceremony with my sister. I threw a very small amount of roasted beans from indoor to the backyard only twice, shouting ‘Devils out!’ as had been instructed. Then I threw many grains from the house entrance into the cleaned room for many times, ‘Fortune in!’ When the ceremony ended, mother and sister collected the beans scattered all around the room and those beans amounted to full of a bowl. Mother handed me it, saying ‘you can eat a half of this as beans are hard to digest. The remainder, tomorrow.’

    in bright morning
    birds and I singing:
    the spring begins

    (Setsubun means the border between seasons: particularly between winter and spring as a haiku kigo)

  4. I was born in the year of the monkey. I missed this calling obviously. When will be my next opportunity, I wonder?

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