In the old Japanese calendar, based on the 24 periods of the ancient Chinese calendar, the third day of the second month is marked as risshun (立春) or the coming of Spring. Granted, it was still cold outside and flowers hadn’t really blossomed yet, but it is considered the start of the Spring season.1 It marks the time when nature is just starting to defrost, and wake up.
Among the first things that traditionally bloom are plum blossoms, such as those featured in the photo above (courtesy of Wikipedia).
One of the poems from the Hyakunin Isshu anthology, poem 35, touches upon this exciting feeling of the first blossoms of the year:
|人はいさ||Hito wa isa||With people, well|
|心も知らず||Kokoro mo shirazu||you can never know their hearts;|
|ふるさとは||Furusato wa||but in my old village|
|花ぞむかしの||Hana zo mukashi no||the flowers brightly bloom with|
|香に匂ひける||Ka ni nioi keru||the scent of the days of old.|
Finally, let’s talk about Setsubun. Every year we celebrate this Japanese holiday with the kids, and over time the Oni mask I use to “scare” the kids has evolved over time, including one my daughter made many years ago and was (unintentionally) a bit terrifying.
This year, we finally got a real mask rather than a homemade one:
This handy Setsubun “kit” provides the cooked soybeans that the kids throw and a nice Oni mask for me to wear. Basically everything you need for mamemaki! As mentioned in past posts, the tradition is for the dad to dress up as an Oni, a kind Japanese ogre, and knock on the door while the kids throw roasted soybeans at him to drive out bad luck and welcome in good luck for the year. Since Lunar New Year used to fall a couple days before Setsubun, this was part of the New Year tradition.
Supply of traditional goods like this from Japan vary quite a bit each year, even before the pandemic, so we were lucky to get a hold of one this year. It’s unclear if the mask will fit my big American face, but we’ll see. If I can, I’ll try to post some photos or a video.
Happy (early) Spring everyone!
1 Here in the PNW, the last day of frost is said to be March 10th, according to my gardening book. Spring comes extra late here.