setsubun girl (lucky roll)
Japan has four very distinct seasons - known in the old seasonal almanac as Risshun, Rikka, Rishū, and Rittō (spring, summer, autumn and winter). All of these were marked in the old lunar calendar before the Gregorian calendar was adopted. The eves of all of these seasons were known as ‘setsubun’, meaning ‘seasonal division’ but in modern day Japan only the eve of spring or Risshun is properly marked, and therefore only this one is now associated with Setsubun (節分). It was once also New Year’s Eve, and was accompanied by various cleansing rites and efforts to encourage good fortune. Setsubun takes place on either 2nd (rarely), 3rd or 4th February.
As part of these rites, a custom began around the 15th century of scattering roasted soy beans to drive out evil spirits and purify the home for the coming year. Known as mamemaki, it first took place in homes and later a public bean scattering ceremony was first performed in Tokyo at Senso-ji temple during the Edo period (1603 - 1868) and now happens at various temples across Japan.
These 'good luck' beans (福豆/ fuku mame) are often held in a square wooden measuring cup known as a masu (the ones sometimes used these days to drink sake from) and as they are thrown you must shout “Demons out, fortune in!” (Oni wa soto! Fuku wa uchi!/ 鬼は外! 福は内! ). There are regional variations to this chant, and at Senso-ji they shout "Long life and good fortune, come in!" because there are no demons in front of the enshrined deity.
Beans are also thrown out of windows, sometimes at a member of the family wearing a demon mask, and the doors slammed. When the bean throwing is performed at temples nowadays the beans are in little packets. Once the bean throwing is over, it is customary for people to eat the same number of beans as their age, to ensure good health for the year.
A food custom that originated in Osaka of eating a type of uncut makizushi roll called ehōmaki or ‘lucky direction roll’ (恵方巻) is now becoming a more mainstream part of the setsubun tradition. To give one an extra chance of good fortune for the year, it should be eaten in silence whilst facing the year’s lucky compass direction, depending on the zodiac symbol of that particular year. This wood girl has been inspired by those uncut sushi rolls - she has a nori seaweed like body, and lift her up to see the delicious contents of the roll! All of the wood girls I've made to celebrate setsubun in 2021 also have a handpainted wooden demon mask to wear, with red elastic cord to hold it in place.
My pieces are painted in a naïve and simple style, with visible brush strokes and differing paint consistencies. It is important to note that these dolls are made from real wood which will have naturally occurring markings and grain, and sometimes there will be small amount of bleeding along the grain, or knots, which is to be expected when using untreated wood - please make sure you consult the pictures carefully before purchasing. She has been finished in a top coat of matt acrylic.
A note about 'Wood Girls'
This girl was turned from lime or linden wood by a production turner, and then hand painted in the U.K. by me, a British artist. I love exploring the patterns and scenes encountered by me on my travels and in daily life. My wood girls are inspired by the kokeshi dolls made in Japan, and with every new purchase I include a leaflet explaining a little about the history of kokeshi in Japan and how they are made. I prefer to call mine 'wood girls' to distinguish them from the traditional folk craft of Japan, but they are very much in the spirit of kokeshi.
Stamped on the reverse of the demon mask with my roaring bear in blue ink.
Approximately 15cm high.
Please note: THIS IS NOT A TOY and should be kept out of the reach of children.