Last post about Japan for a while; here in Hong Kong I have been caught up with work and all the hustle and bustle of the city. Moving on to a new country, and new era for me! But for now, the old capital Kyoto and even older capital, Nara. My last days of Japan, including the aforeposted setsubun were rather different than any other trips I’ve had.
I lived in Gion area, right in the middle of the historical Geisha spirit (and tourists). I did not visit the Golden or Silver temple, since I was busy with the setsubun parties and other places.
Other than the beautiful religious spots, I enjoyed the other visual treats of the Japanese harmony.
Nara, the town of Daibutsuen buddha statue and the deer that eat crackers from your hand and may poop on your feet, was not bad, either.
The deer were aplenty during daylight, but after that they all oddly vanished.
From the peace and tranquil to the metropole and smog of Hong Kong – it’s a completely different world in here!
Setsubun is a traditional Japanese festival for the change of seasons, celebrated on the 3rd of February, one day before Springtime. Like any other decent celebration in Japan, setsubun includes customs, traditions, special foods and rituals to bring good fortune, health and a better future. The rituals are then mixed to suit everyone’s taste. I did a whole bunch of traditions on my last whole day in Japan, plus an extra something: walking on burning coal!
Setsubun includes mamemaki, throwing soybeans in order to ward off evil spirits. Beans are sold in stores as well as festival stalls. Some shrines have mamemaki events, where priests throw beans to people while yelling “Oni wa soto! Fuku wa uchi!” (demons out, luck in!). I participated in mamemaki in Nara, where I visited on setsubun. Sake was served, and the spirit for good fortune was all around.
Amulets and charms are burnt in bonfires to bring luck. I got to participate in the big bonfire burning in Yoshida shrine, Kyoto. Unfortunately I have no pictures of that; Let’s just say it was about 10 times the size of Finnish midsummer fires. The festival stalls in Yoshida shrine were definitely great to experience before leaving Japan.
It is customary in Kansai area to eat uncut makizushi called eho-maki (恵方巻) (lit. “lucky direction roll”) in silence on Setsubun while facing the year’s lucky compass direction (this year South-East), determined by the zodiac symbol of that year. My eho maki was sitting in a shrine, overlooking Nara.
with all these evil-repelling activities (and at least a kilo of beans I ate), my Hong Kong time ought to be lucky!