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Setsubun. Let's throw beans!
Setsubun New York style in Motion Plate by  Kihachi Studio

Setsubun New York style in Motion Plate by Kihachi Studio

Today (Feb. 3) is setsubun in Japan. It symbolizes the day prior to the traditional start of the the lunar new year. Think of it like a New Year’s eve — before risshun, the beginning of spring from the old lunar calendar. It’s a time when the fresh new year is welcomed in and ceremonies are performed to chase away evil from the previous year and keep it away from the new one. A special setsubun ritual to cleanse evil spirits away is called mame-maki, which can be translated into bean scattering or throwing. Typically, soybeans are used.

Families use a handful or cup of roasted soybeans and either toss them about the house or sometimes at a family member dressed as a demon — shouting "Oni wa soto! Fuku wa uchi!", which means roughly, out with the evil and in with good fortune. They also open the windows and throw the beans outside. Another part of this tradition is to eat the same number of beans as your age to bring you good fortune in the coming year. Sometimes, an extra bean is added to increase this good fortune.

We wish you the best and most-rewarding year ahead...!

Fall preview from Japan Suite
Motion plate by Kihachi

Motion plate by Kihachi

We hope you had a wonderful summer. 

At Japan Suite, we are busy preparing for Fall products. And we would like you to preview a few of them today!

We are planning to introduce some unique glass jewelry pieces by Harrys as well as traditional lacquerware from Kihachi in Ishikawa. And from Kyoto, we are going to showcase bamboo dinnerware by Takano Chikko.

We are excited about these artists and will let you know as soon they are ready on our site.

Bonbon necklace (silver) by Harrys

Bonbon necklace (silver) by Harrys

Tanabata — Story of Two Star-crossed Lovers

Today is a special day all over Japan where people celebrate Tanabata, the Star Festival. Tanabata is celebrated to commemorate the romantic story of two lovers represented by the stars Vega and Altair who are only allowed to meet each other once a year as long as the skies are clear. It is celebrated on the 7th day of the 7th lunar month, which is July 7th in the modern calendar. Some places in Japan celebrate Tanabata on August 7th in accordance with the older Chinese calendar, which is where the legend originated. The most famous of all the Tanabata festivals is celebrated in Sendai on August 7th, but most of Japan recognizes Tanabata today (July 7th).

On Tanabata, people write wishes on small pieces of colored paper called tanzaku and hang them on bamboo trees. These become beautiful wish trees. On the following day, the decorated trees are floated on a river or in the ocean and burned as an offering. There are many celebrations all over Japan, which also include parades, food stalls, colorful decorations, and fireworks.

Tanabata originated from a Chinese legend called Qixi and was brought to Japan in the 8th century. This is the story of two lovers. Princess Orihime, the seamstress, wove beautiful clothes by the heavenly river, represented by the Milky Way. Because Orihime worked so hard weaving beautiful clothes, she became sad and despaired of ever finding love. Her father, who was a God of the heavens, loved her dearly and arranged for her to meet Hikoboshi, the cow herder who lived on the other side of the Milky Way. The two fell in love instantly and married. Their love and devotion was so deep that Orihime stopped weaving and Hikoboshi allowed his cows to wander the heavens. 

Orihime’s father became angry and forbade the lovers to be together, but Orihime pleaded with him to allow them to stay. He loved his daughter, so he decreed that the two star-crossed lovers could meet once a year--on the 7th day of the 7th month if Orihime returned to her weaving. On the first day they were to be reunited, they found the river (Milky Way) to be too difficult to cross. Orihime became so despondent that a flock of magpies came and made a bridge for her. It is said that if it rains on Tanabata, the magpies will not come, and the two lovers must wait another year to be reunited, so Japanese always wish for good weather on Tanabata. There are many variations of this story, but this version is the most widely held.

We hope for clear skies on Tanabata so the lovers can always be reunited.

市中繁栄七夕祭 by Hiroshige

市中繁栄七夕祭 by Hiroshige

Tanabata Festival in Edo (Hiroshige, 1852)

Tanabata Festival in Edo (Hiroshige, 1852)

Tanabata festival in Tokyo

Tanabata festival in Tokyo