Today, in honor of Setsubun, allow me to divulge the time-honored Japanese method for getting rid of all your demons!
1: FIRST, YOU NEED BEANS
Soybeans. Roasted ones. These are for throwing at the oldest male member of your family, who will be wearing a demon mask for the occasion. The demon must be pelted ferociously enough to drive him from the house, as you shout, “Demons out! Good luck in!” Save enough of the beans so you can eat as many as your age. This is not a hardship for five-year-olds, but 80-year-olds do not look forward to Setsubun. Plain roasted soybeans are never going to beat Cheetos in the snack food wars.
2: NEXT, SARDINE HEADS.
Once the demons have been given the boot, you don’t want them re-infesting. The best way to ensure they get out and stay out is to plant smelly fish heads and spiky holly branches all around outside your door. This may also have the desirable side effect of deterring religious proselytizers and sketchy individuals hawking magazine subscriptions.
3: FINALLY, SUSHI ROLLS
They’ve got to be filled with the Seven Good Luck Ingredients (eel, pink fish powder, egg, cucumber, dried bonito, mushrooms and rice), and eaten like jumbo cigars, not cut. Do not snarf these down until you’ve consulted your smartphone GPS compass, so you can turn to face this year’s Lucky Direction.
This year, it’s NNW. And even if Godzilla himself asks you where to find the nearest bridge to destroy, don’t talk to ANYBODY until you’ve swallowed the last bite.
If you’re in Tokyo on February 3 and would like to go to a Setsubun ceremony, I recommend Senso-ji in Asakusa or Zojo-ji in Kamiyacho – where you get to see celebs and sumo wrestlers toss the beans and prizes – but they have ceremonies at many of the best shrines & temples in Tokyo. Directions & maps are on my website, The Tokyo Guide I Wish I’d Had.
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Writing mystery books set in Tokyo is mostly what I do, but I also blog about the odd stuff I see every day in Japan. I'm a graduate of Stanford University and the Sendagaya Japanese Institute in Tokyo, and a member of the International Thriller Writers, the Mystery Writers of America, and Sisters In Crime. When I'm not in Tokyo, I live in San Francisco. I also host a travel site called The Tokyo Guide I Wish I'd Had, so if you're headed to Japan and want to check out the places I take my friends when they're in town, take a look!