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  • Elisse Carma

Setsubun with the Bertrands

On February 3rd, the Japanese people celebrated Setsubun. This holiday is held on the day before Spring begins. My friend Gaelle and her family were invited to celebrate at a temple which is run by their friend Asaka's family.

Emeric prays inside the temple while waiting for the ceremony to begin

Gaelle asked me to come along to document the occasion. I was immediately thrilled for the opportunity to document her family at such a special Japanese ceremony!

Evan snacks on soybeans on his dad's lap

The Bertrand family attended the Manpukuin temple here in Nagoya for Setsubun. First, we were dressed with some bright green and orange robes and seated in rows with boxes of soybeans in front of us.

Emeric looks around and eats soybeans in the temple

We waited while the priest led the ceremony with some chants. The boys discovered quickly that the soybeans were quite tasty...

Israel throws soybeans during the setsubun ceremony

The most important part of the ceremony is the bean throwing. The priest yells, "Demons out! Luck in!" Or rather, "Oni wa soto! Fuku wa uchi!" Everyone in the room throws soybeans in the same direction. Then they all turn 90 degrees clockwise and throw soybeans together in that direction, and so on until they've reached the front again.

Gaelle throws soybeans with her family

What a blast! The kids thought it was quite fun, and it seemed like every adult in the room was laughing, too. The significance of throwing the soybeans is to purify the home and drive away the evil spirits and bad luck. But it also seemed to brighten everyone's mood just for the sheer fun of it.

The aftermath of the setsubun soybean throwing on the ground

Of course, the aftermath was quite messy! The staff moved quickly to clean as the patrons exited the room and the next group waited to enter.

Gaelle talk sweetly to Evan during lunch in the temple

After the ceremony, we were able to eat lunch with Asaka and her family in the temple.

Evan climbs on Gaelle while she eats

Emeric eats his lunch

Evan climbs on Gaelle while she eats and Emeric plays with chopsticks

Gaelle and Israel are such fun and patient parents. The two of them were calm and happy while the boys played around during lunch.

The magician performs in a small room for Gaelle's family

During lunch the Bertrands met several famous people who were attending the temple to participate in the ceremony for the tv broadcast. This is Maggy Shinji, a famous magician, who made the kids laugh with this little impromptu performance. They also met Kawakami Kenshin (former baseball player), Nagashima Seira (former member of Nogizaka46), and Kenshun (former Nobunaga of Omotenashi Bushotai), and a famous boxer of whose name I am unaware.

Gaelle and Emeric play at the table

Crazy boys during lunch, climbing on mom

Emeric climbs on Israel

We finished up our delicious lunch and moved into the bottom floor of the temple, where the afternoon session of the public bean throwing began. This ceremony was for anyone who wanted to be there and participate, while the ceremony inside the temple was only for certain patrons.

Setsubun bean throwing on the bottom floor of the temple

The main priest is throwing beans and yelling "Luck in!" while the celebrities around him are helping to throw the beans.

Emeric plays with his dad on the bottom floor of the temple

Emeric was starting to get a little antsy, of course, and enjoyed the free space to play around with his dad.

Gaelle holds sleepy Evan in the temple

Evan was ready for a nap by this time!

Gaelle and Israel laugh together in the temple

Emeric holds his soybeans and looks at me

When the celebration ended, we grabbed some delicious Amazake and more soybeans and said our goodbyes to Asaka and her family. Asaka was a wonderful host and very kind to give us such exclusive access to her temple's festivities!

Israel holds sleeping Evan

Gaelle really amazes me with her love and knowledge for Japanese culture. She is constantly researching and taking classes and traveling Japan with her family. She really makes the most of this experience of living in Japan as an expat wife. She inspires me to embrace the culture and learn more!

Evan wears a setsubun mask and holds his soybeans

And of course I adored her little ones. Here Evan is wearing the Oni mask (a demon), which would be a part of their Setsubun celebration at home, which I'm sure Gaelle and Israel enjoyed! To learn more about Setsubun, click here.

The whole family in the city for the Setsubun celebration

I just adore this expat family and their love for Japan. I can't wait for the next shoot with the Bertrands.

Here is Asaka and her beautiful daughter, whose family runs the Manpukuin temple:

And for a bonus... A kind lady sitting next to me offered to take this picture of me! My kids had the flu several days before this shoot, and I was worried about passing germs to them so I wore the mask for our session.

Elisse wears a mask

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