City's First Japanese Hotel Chases Away Evil Spirits

Blonde helps scatter beans in ancient tradition

Wednesday, Feb 3, 2010  |  Updated 4:52 PM EDT
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Scattering beans to welcome good luck in a new place is a longstanding Japanese ritual.

Scattering beans to welcome good luck in a new place is a longstanding Japanese ritual.

Fear not the evil spirits, New York hotel-goers. The Kitano Hotel, the city's first authentic Japanese digs, chased away the haunts and marked the end of the cold season with the traditional sprinkling of soybeans throughout its halls this afternoon.

The ancient Japanese ritual, called Setsubun, welcomes good luck and wards off evil spirits. The "setsu" of Setsubun originally referred to the eve of any of the 24 divisions of the solar year defined by Japan's Lunar calendar and was often called New Year's Eve. It's celebrated worldwide.

In some ritual forms, the Toshi Otoko (referring either to the "man of the house" or to men who are born in the animal sign of the coming year tiger for the year 2010) will throw beans within the house and repeat the saying Fuku wa Uchi; Oni wa Soto; (Come in Happiness! Wishing for good fortune in the coming year. Get out Ogre!).

In this case, the Kitano's deputy manager assumed the honors of bean-thrower. A semi-nude model helped out, though. (We have no idea who she was, why she was there in a crowd of middle-aged women dressed in suits or why she wasn't wearing a shirt, but we definitely thought it was cool.)

Setsubun dates back to the Ming Dynasty in China and in Japanese form began to take shape in the Muremachi Era. Today, Setsubun is celebrated in many ways, but the most common custom found throughout Japan is the traditional

Mame Maki

or the scattering of beans to chase away the evil ogres.

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