Kawagoe got a decent amount of snow fall yesterday. Well, enough that it was far too dangerous for me to bike the entire way to work. I ended up walking most of the distance and, as a result of the poor combination of ice, snow, and my tennis shoes, I slipped and twisted my ankle pretty bad along with my knee. In summary, my left leg is not a happy camper at the moment, but it is getting better. I’ve had worse injuries in soccer, so I am not too worried.
The good part of my walk is that I was able to take some more pictures of the snow along the way.
On a more Japanese culture related note, today is a Japanese holiday called 節分・setsubun. Setsubun (bean-throwing ceremony) marks the last day of winter according to the Lunar calendar. People throng temples and shrines to vie with another for lucky beans that are thrown by priests or celebrities who shout “Oni wa soto! Fuku wa uchi!” (鬼は外! 福は内!). The words roughly translate to “Demons out! Luck in!” The beans are thought to symbolically purify the home by driving away the evil spirits that bring misfortune and bad health with them. Then, as part of bringing luck in, it is customary to eat roasted soybeans, one for each year of one’s life, and in some areas, one for each year of one’s life plus one more for bringing good luck for the year to come. Also, you eat Ehomaki “thick sushi roll” looking at the direction of the year. 2009 is eastern-north-east. Once you start eating it, you can’t talk till finish.
At Buddhist temples and Shinto shrines all over the country, there are celebrations for Setsubun. Priests and invited guests will throw roasted soy beans (some wrapped in gold or silver foil), small envelopes with money, sweets, candies and other prizes. In some bigger shrines, even celebrities and sumo wrestlers will be invited; these events are televised nationally. Many people will come, and the event turns wild, with everyone pushing and shoving to get the gifts tossed from above.
My one elementary school is located very close to a Shinto shrine, so my third grade students went to participate in the bean throwing ceremony as part of their social studies class. They brought back some beans for me.