"Oni wa soto! Fuku wa uchi!"

鬼は外! 福は内! is a phrase shouted throughout the land in order to cleanse one's house of demons. Setsubun (節分) is an annual festival held on Feb. 3rd to celebrate Lunar New Year's Eve. (It corresponds in time to yesterday's post on Groundhog's day which is also celebrated as Candlemas or the halfway point between Winter and Spring.) Families gather round the front of their residence and shout, "鬼は外! 福は内!" while the male head of the household dons his 鬼 (oni) mask while scattering roasted beans or unshelled peanuts (豆まき=mame-make or bean-scattering ceremony).

Here in Sendai, it's traditional to eat a long uncut 巻き鮨 (maki-zushi rolled up sushi) and this year it is quite fortuitous if you stand facing a North-North-Westerly direction while doing so.

In rural areas, look out for a rather gruesome custom, which is to eat grilled sardines and stick the heads on sticks with holly outside your front door to frighten away any demons trying to enter. (Mmmm fish heads!)

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