It is still cold, and spring seems a way off. However days are starting to get longer noticeably. The trees in my backyard are adorned with hundreds of teeny-tiny blossoms. And just like every year at this time, small, pretty birds called Mejiro (white eye) have come back.
According to the Japanese ancient Shinto calendar, February 4th is the first day of spring. It is celebrated by the festival of Risshun (立春), literally meaning “rise of Spring”. The event is preceded by the festival of Setsubun (節分) on February 3rd , the kanji characters for which mean “seasonal division”.
In about 2 or 3 weeks, the hills behind my house will be filled with an early blooming cherry blossom variety called Yama-zakura (mountain cherry blossom).
Soon after that, it will be time for the magnificent Uguisu (Japanese nightingale) to fill the air with its mesmerising song, celebrating the glory of the coming spring.
About Setsubun and Risshun
For many centuries, Japanese have celebrated the end of winter on February 3rd by the festival of Setsubun, for the purpose of chasing away evil spirits at the beginning of spring. This is followed by Risshun on February 4th, which marks the beginning of spring.
A common setsubun ritual is the throwing of roasted beans around one’s house and at temples and shrines, shouting “Oni wa soto! Fuku wa uchi!” (“Demons out! Happiness in!”)
Wisdom of Ages
The wise, old Japanese, sensitive to the rhythms of nature, knew a thing or two. Seasons were paramount in their lives, and they keenly sensed and respected the small clues of its changes. Herald of spring was time to get ready for the ensuing hard work to reap the bounty of nature.
It is still cold, but spring is in the air. Demons out! Happiness in!