Friday, February 3, 2012
setsubun (bean-throwing festival)
Every year on February 3, Japan celebrates the seasonal division between winter and spring (they obviously weren't thinking of Hokkaido when they divided up the year). This day, which we call Setsubun, comes with a lot of delightful traditions, one of which is the bean-throwing ritual called mame-maki. Etegami at this time of year often make some reference to this ritual. I've posted two of the many etegami I painted to mark this year's Setsubun. The Japanese writing on the one showing a pod of green peas says "Spring is closer now than it was yesterday." The one showing a pod of hibernating Daruma-shaped beans is the latest addition to my daruma series, and is meant to make you smile.
Mame (pronounced mah-meh) means "bean," and mame used as an adjective means a small or compact version of a thing. For example, mame chishiki, an often-used phrase, literally means "bean knowledge," but is used for trivia or quaint little facts about something. And mame denkyuu (literally "bean light bulbs") refers to tiny light bulbs like those used for Christmas tree lights. So, what does mame zen mean? Or does it mean anything? Or does it even matter?