Monday, February 3, 2014

Setsubun and Birthday in Japan

The day started with more trees in shodo class.  Sensei gave me something new but I have accepted the kanji for tree as my shodo white whale.  Something about the four simple lines, their different lengths, beginnings and ends, their relationship to one another on the page.  There is still more to explore.  During one of my breaks, one of the women in the class pulled me aside to share a video of the little bird, uguisu, which had inspired the whole class to chirp in last week's session.  Apparently it is called a Japanese warbler in English.

I left shodo a bit early to meet my friend Jessica at the train station.  She arrived from Germany this morning, well-rested from a sleep-filled night on the plane and ready for action.  We came back to my apartment, dropped off her things and headed by bike to Nakayamadera to meet Kaneko-San for Setsubun, the festival of devils and bean throwing, of maki sushi eating, of the changing of the season. Kaneko-San was excited to meet her and had copied a map of Germany, ready to exercise his German language skills.

Me and Kaneko-San!

Me and Jessica

Jessica and Kaneko-San

Keeping everyone in line

Devils dancing at Setsubun

no mischief here

see no evil

banishing the devils


devils revealed 

preparing to throw the mame (beans) to the crowds

reaching for good luck

more bean throwing

After the festivities we joined a group from the Takarazuka International Friendship Association for a gathering at a nearby center where we ate maki sushi rolls.  Tradition has it that one must eat the entire roll while facing the lucky direction of the year (this year is north by northeast) without talking.  The whole room turned towards a corner with a man and his camera and indulged in the rolls as he took our picture.  All the while the hostess tempted us to say how delicious the roll was.   I think we all made it.

TIFA group walking towards sushi

maki rolls waiting to be eaten, green tea and snacks to fill the void

wearing devil mask to throw the beans
After eating, we had to introduce ourselves to the group and as my friend Jessica stood up to share in English her reason for being here, she mentioned that it was my birthday.  No one seemed to notice and we continued with the introductions, which led to devil mask wearing and more bean throwing.  We indulged in more Japanese snacks and met several new very friendly people.  When somebody pointed out that it was birthday, it wasn't long before the whole room was singing Happy Birthday to Andorea and clapping their hands.

Kaneko-San walked us to our bikes and presented me with a gift, a box of cookies from Hankyu department store.

We got on our bikes and rode to the Takarazuka onsen to enjoy a long relaxing soak in the baths.  As we were sitting there, two children walked by and stared at us, then kept staring at us in curiosity.  I finally said hello and made two new friends that followed us from pool to pool, asking me my favorite color, my favorite shape.

After onsen, we had green tea soft serve ice cream, then biked home, stopping at the Japanese grocery to pick up some sweet potato corn flakes.  I guess it's the seasonal replacement for the green tea ones that were there the last time I checked.  Tomorrow, the fun will continue.  We came home and I ate 31 beans, my age plus one, to ensure good luck in the coming year.  So far so good.

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