Today is Setsubun, a fun day for anyone with kids in Japan. A remnant of a festival that took place on New Year’s Eve during the old Lunar Calendar, it’s a day when oni (devils) will be symbolically chased out of the house so that happiness can reign during the New Year. The father of the house will assume the role of a devil, wearing a paper mask that makes him look scary. When the devil attacks, the children pelt him with baked soybeans and chase him off, shouting Oni wa soto, fuku wa uchi! (“Out with devils, in with happiness!”). When the devil is properly vanquished, everyone is supposed to eat their age in soybeans to help guarantee good health in the coming year, which is easy for a child of eight or so but more difficult for parents who are getting up there in years. Setsubun is also a day to visit your local Shinto shrine, where people gather to be pelted by soybeans thrown out into the crowd by sumo wrestlers and kabuki actors who have been invited to take part in the festivities.
Feb. 3rd is Setsubun, a day for casting devils out of your home.