Friday, February 5, 2010

Where to draw the line?

Japan is a place of many traditions and often these are marked with special rituals. Two days ago saw us arrive at what is called 'setsubun', the day before the beginning of spring (not that we are anywhere near spring in Hokkaido!) The special ritual associated with this festival is called 'mamemaki', when dried soya beans are thrown accompanied with a chant of 'Demons out! Luck in!' in an attempt to drive out evil spirits. Some people don a mask to look like a demon and others throw the beans at them. Afterwards, the beans are eaten to bring in luck. Often this 'bean throwing' is done at school and kindergarten. So at Alistair's kindergarten on Wednesday, some of the adults put on their demon masks and the children threw beans and monkey nuts at them. So what to do? Join in or ask to be kept out of that time? We have felt that we would not want our children participating in this kind of festival so have always asked the teacher if our boys can do something different at that time. It's always a delicate decision where to draw the line between what is acceptable to be involved in and what, as Christians, we should say no to. Alistair was quite happy not to be part of the 'bean throwing' at the demons and it was a good opportunity to say why to his teacher.

1 comment:

  1. Here in the UK, when I was invited to take part in a setsubun party, I had no idea what the spiritual connotations of mamemaki were, and had to email a couple of Japanese Christians to find out! I wondered if it was similar to Hallowe'en - some Christians don't have a problem with what (in their view) is "just a bit of fun, with no-one taking it seriously", but others more concerned about the spiritual undertones. Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I think we feel a similar way!