Wednesday, February 03, 2010


Akikosan likes to bring things "Japanese" for us to experience. I enjoy our times with her immensely. We're able to ask about anything that has puzzled us during the week. She brings us fun things to try and shares insights into the Japanese mind we've simply not gleaned from briefings at the base or books on Japan.

Yesterday, she brought us a bag of mame (peanuts) and a mask. The mask says "ECO" across the forehead, has trees for ears/hair and leaves for a mustache. The nose is a recycling triangle. This led us to believe this was some sort of "environmental festival". There always seems to be some new festival popping up.

3 Feb is Setsubun in Japan. This day marks the beginning of a new season. The way Akikosan communicated's a time to chase out bad fortune and welcome good fortune for the rest of the year. NOW - we believe in a Sovereign God who dictates our steps - and at times the very BEST spiritual growth has come from incidents that others would consider bad fortune. In other words, we all played along, but we fully knew that nothing about the mask or peanuts would bring good luck or chase out bad luck....and we didn't want it to. Bad fortune, we thought, was portrayed as an environmental devil....not that far off from the battle of the Snowy Owl in OR as I grew up. LOL

Nevertheless, regardless of our view on "luck," we DO want to understand and experience Japan. One family member wears the Oni mask. We were told the mask represents "bad fortune." The mask wearer runs around the house. Obviously, this seemed like a wonderful practice to the kids.

From 2010-02-03

As they run through the house, and out the house, everyone else throws mame (soy beans, peanuts) at the child wearing the Oni mask. The mame represent bad fortune. As you throw peanuts you yell, Oni Wa Soto and Fyu Ku Wa Uchi (Bad fortune out/Good fortune in).
From 2010-02-03
Finally, all pick up peanuts and eat them. The peanuts now represent good fortune. A person picks up one mame for each year of his/her life.; we cheated.
From 2010-02-03

It was fun. It broke up the winter day with a bit of inside the house levity. The Japanese culture works HARD, but they also celebrate LOTS of festivals and days that allow for fun.

I realize there may be an outcry about this post, but it deserves a spot in our family journal. It's part of our Japanese experience. We're new here and weren't aware of the finer points of this festival.....until later when I went to Wikipedia. According to Wikipedia, the Oni mask, which looked like an environmental caricature, represents Bad Fortune or a Demon. Come to think of it, chasing around yelling, "Devil Get OUT" may not be such a bad idea. I certainly have been doing such in my morning prayer times. One could certainly find spiritual truth in Scripture that we are victorious Christians, given authority to walk victoriously over the powers and schemes of the evil one. Anyway - there you have it, our latest cultural adventure.

Choosing Joy!
©2010 D.R.G.
~Coram Deo~
Living all of life before the face of God...


MrsAlbrecht said...

At the BennyMart grocery store by our house, the cashiers dress up for Setsubun and kids are encouraged to throw peanuts at them. Kinda crazy!

You can't live in Japan without being surrounded by festivals and culture. This event kinda reminds of me of Halloween - what about you?

It does amaze me at how much emphasis is put on "keeping the demons away" -- acknowledgment that there do exist -- but crazy just how many rituals are performed (bamboo entrance rope at new years, taking shoes off at front door, incense lighting, etc.) to keep away the demons.

The prevalence of religion here makes me even more bold about mine. Thankful for a God whom we can pray to and ask for protection vs. worrying frantically if we have don't all the right things. Interesting angle for witnessing :)

Much love,

PS: We're headed to Sapporo for the snow festival next week. Are you guys going? I think the one in Hirosaki is the following week -- a bit closer. We didn't go last year because I was still recovering from my surgery and coulndn't walk around for long periods of time. Anyway.. if you go to the Hirosaki one, you're welcome to visit :) If we plan ahead a bit, you could even crash here overnight. Your family could have the upstairs :)

DeEtta @ Courageous Joy said...

We won't make it to Sapporo this year. We didn't make reservations early enough. We are going to the Towada one (local) and I'll look into Hirosaki.

Sort of like Halloween but not really - KWIM? I was thinking today that the point of Setsubun is to CHASE THE DEVIL AWAY - whereas Halloween - not sure what the point is there. LOL

YES, being open to learning their beliefs does make for some great witnessing inroads....for seems that the "connections" don't always "click".....a friend was asked "what would oni be in English" and she said, "Devil, satan" and said that you could see the girl had never thought of it that way, never made the connection.

Cynthia said...

Thanks for sharing all the info. It's great that you have a tutor coming to the house!

Renee said...

Thanks for sharing your experiences with Japanese culture...

Kim said...

Looks like you had fun!

As we took a budahist candle from the Christmas box at church on Wednesday and stuck it in a piece of cake in place of a birthday candle, for the pastor, the Japanese ladies were a bit shocked.

I said something about - it's the heart that purifies things! Did that make sense? You know, Peter and Paul and the food story!

(PS - we use the budhist candles for candlelight services!)

DeEtta @ Courageous Joy said...

Kim - cracks me up that your church uses the Buddhist candles for a candlight service....I guess you do what you have to do over here.....I still laugh at having to go to a hardware store for birthday candles. LOL

Anonymous said...

We could go for the peanut eating. :):):) love/prayers -- Dad/Mom t.