Tomorrow is Setsubun, a fun day for anyone with small kids in Japan. Originally falling on New Year’s Eve of the old Lunar Calendar that Japan used until 1873, 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 devils are sufficiently vanquished, everyone eats their age in soybeans to help guarantee good health in the coming year. I’m happy that Setsubun is finally here, because it also marks the official end of my yakudoshi or Year of Great Calamity, which is the age of 42 for a man or 33 or a woman. During this year a person will experience bad luck (unless they counter the bad luck with a special omamori good luck charm), and it’s forbidden to buy a new car or start construction on a new house during the unlucky year. I look forward to less bad luck in my life — 2011 was not the best.
This is a bit more terrifying than the oni masks you normally see.