Monday, February 04, 2008

Maki zushi,Setsubun and MameMaki

Pictured above are three examples of maki zushi,special long uncut rolls of eho maki eaten during Setsubun the day before the start of Spring according to the old traditional calendar.This years Setsubun celebration fell yesterday and it seemed that nearly every convenience store,supermarket and sushi shop was touting their own versions of maki zushi.
Prices varied and so accordingly did the ingredients used.The cheapest ones I saw were selling at 400yen each while the more expensive ones were 800 yen and over.The more lavish rolls used crab and shrimp meat but all the rolls seemed to be around 18-20 cm in length.

As it was my day off yesterday,I walked down to Osu Kannon Temple to watch the ceremonies taking place.Prior to the mamemaki or bean throwing events there is a Parade of The Seven Gods of Good Luck who ride a treasure ship float around the shopping district.Their voyage ends in front of the Temple.While I just missed the Seven Gods arrival I did manage to catch their treasure ship as it was being hauled away.

Once the Parade had finished,various groups decorated in coats and costumes climbed onto the scaffolding erected in front of the Temple and took part in the mamemaki ceremony.Members of the public,families and friends also took the opportunity to participate.Each person is given a small wooden box filled with roasted soya beans which are then thrown over the waiting masses below to symbolically get rid of evil spirits.

The crowds below the elevated bean throwers try to catch some of the lucky beans while the bean throwers chant "Fuku wa ichi"which roughly translates as "Good Luck come here!" or something similar.The chant varies from the norm which in full includes the words "Oni wa soto"-"Evil spirits out" but isnt chanted at Osu.

As you can see from the assembled hordes the place was pretty crowded for such a cold day when snow was forecast but didnt arrive.There was also a fairly competitive spirit evident with people using all manner of containers to try and catch some of the beans that were pelting them.More than once,there were calls for people to stop using upturned umbrellas while feisty hunched old women packed down like rugby players attempting to snag the elusive lucky beans.It all made for an interesting and entertaining spectacle. An unusual way to bring in Spring which based on the low temperatures and chilly winds still seems weeks away.

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