My Setsubun (節分) with Mr. Matsumoto
When a Japanese superior from Kyoto asks you to show him the way to the near temple, it may sound like a joke. But do not be mistaken because there is quite a big chance that he really means it.
It was on 3rd of February 2015, when Mr. Matsumoto asked me in his energetic manner to show him around to Mibu-dera Temple and started walking right away. In Japanese this day is called Setsubun. According to the lunar calendar this day marks the last day of winter in Japan. On this day the simple spiritual purification ritual called “mamemaki(豆まき)” is practiced throughout the Japan. The roasted beans are being scattered to chase the evil and bad luck out of one´s life and to bring the happiness and good luck in it.
The food stalls at the temple
THE KYOGEN PLAY(狂言)
Many festivities take place in temples and shrines. This year we went to Mibu-dera Temple to see a comical play called Kyogen. The tradition of Kyogen plays in this temple has a history of more than 700 years. One play lasts for about 45 minutes and during Setsubun the entry is free. I suggest reading the outline of play beforehand. It helps a lot to understand the story. Unfortunately taking photographs or videos during the performances is strictly prohibited. Only 400 hundred people can enter at one time and there are thousands of people who are interested in seeing the play. So you should come at least one hour before the play starts and wait patiently in front of the entrance. Just be aware of the fact that you will be waiting and sitting outside. So you should be well prepared for the weather.
The Kyogen stage
The story of the play was related to Setsubun. It was about a widow who meets the demon. She manages to drive him away by throwing the roasted beans at him, that demons are afraid of.
I did not find it particularly funny but for some reason the Japanese around me laughed. I found this experience of traditional Japanese culture very interesting. It is definitely worth going even if only for this event. I am sure that you will forget about all that coldness and the long waiting, when the play begins.
ON THE WAY TO MIBU-DERA TEMPLE
On your way to the temple you can also drop by at Kofukudo, the sweet shop famous for its delicious sweets called“kintsuba(金つば)”.
As you get closer and closer to the temple the specific smell from the food stalls will urgently begin to tease your nose. And when you look at the food they sell it will definitely make your mouth water. The same thing happened to Mr. Matsumoto, who spent the significant amount of time eating and shared with me his profound knowledge about “takoyaki”(たこ焼き：octopus flitters). He explained to me that I should never eat them with mayonnaise, because if I do so I will never understand the real taste of “takoyaki” and will never be able to tell the difference between the stalls.
The special pottery plate
You should also buy the special pottery plate called “horaku” and write on it your wish. But if you want your wish to come true you will have to leave your plate at the temple for another 100 YEN. It will be crushed during the special ceremony and your wish will come true.
If you´ve had enough of the main temple you can also visit the little shrine nearby that is called Nagi Shrine. You can attend or just watch a small purification ritual conducted by “miko-san”, a maiden in the service of a Shinto shrine.
If you feel cold you can warm yourself by the fire burning the old talismans and charms from the previous year.
Mr. Matsumoto did not show it to me and refused to explain about it telling me that I should do my own research. And since I have not managed to start yet I would really appreciate your help.
Have a nice time at Mibu-dera Temple next time you get there even if it is not during the Setsubun!