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節分「さよなら物語」

「さよなら物語」- A goodbye Tale




What is 節分 [Setsubun]

Setsubun is the day before the beginning of spring in Japan. The name literally means "seasonal division", but usually the term refers to the spring Setsubun, properly called Risshun (立春) celebrated yearly on February 3 as part of the Spring Festival (春祭haru matsuri). In its association with the Lunar New Year, spring Setsubun can be and was previously thought of as a sort of New Year's Eve, and so was accompanied by a special ritual to cleanse away all the evil of the former year and drive away disease-bringing evil spirits for the year to come. This special ritual is called mamemaki (豆撒き, literally "bean scattering") - Wikipedia


Beans in decorated packets being sold all over

So if you have ever read manga(s) that has a chapter where they throw beans at monsters then you basically get the rough idea of the setsubun practice.
Initially i didn't know the term for this but found out while browsing through my Omotenashi travel guide magazine on the latest celebrations/ festivals available in Kyoto for winter season and found that there's a setsubun ceremony happening at Heian Shrine which wasn't too far from where we were staying, a question first though!

How many of you purposely plan your trip coinciding with a festivals or other celebrations in Japan? Japan is known for having many kinds of festivals/ celebrations but it varies according to prefectures, it is indeed an eye opening experience getting to witness something this and it's a totally different feeling compared to watching Youtube videos or reading. It's rather exciting (though it's just an annual thing for the locals) for outsider such as myself but if given a chance i would definitely would like to attend each of these annual celebration/ festivals all around Japan at least once for experience sake, like the Kanamara Matsuri held every spring in Kawasaki lol.


During setsubun locals eat a futomaki called ehō-maki (恵方巻) directly translated as "lucky direction roll which are sold almost everywhere on the 3rd of February. I actually didn't know about this practice of eating an eho-maki because all i know were the throwing of beans around the house and was wondering throughout the whole day on why they were pushing the sales for these futomaki until finally on the way home i gave in and bought one for dinner since it was half price at the end of the day lol. That's one thing i love about Japan, their most expensive bento can be half price or more after 7pm as they need to clear them off before closing time, who says you can't eat like a king on a budget trip.



It's crowded as usual over here since it's one of the must visit tourist destination, you can easily cover the whole stretch in 2 hours, just enough to grab lunch and head off to your next destination around Kyoto. Even though this is a marketplace but the cleanliness level never cease to amaze me, no putrid muddy, rotting stench that you'll usually get from markets and the best part the whole stretch is covered so under rain or shine, you are still protected.

My little koala bear sleeping soundly, she somewhat got a growth spurt from longer naps and feeds making her as long as my upper body (67cm), for a nearly 3 month old she was such a tall michelin baby who coos like a pigeon alot as its her way of communicating with me. Everywhere we went she was mostly sleeping but there are some rare occasions when she would try to look around especially when there are bright colorful lights.


Before dropping by Heian Shrine on the way we stopped by 錦市場, Nishiki Ichiba (Nishiki market) for lunch since the ceremony wasn't till 2pm. This 400 year old market is a must stop by destination for tourists visiting Kyoto, it's basically your typical big market (pasar besar) with food and shopping stores stretching up to 5 blocks!
Though i've briefly been here once 2 years ago, everything seems new this 2nd visit or maybe it's because i actually have a proper english guide magazine that recommends of types of food to try and stuff to buy while i'm here.

The distance isn't too far from Kyoto station, roughly around 2km which isn't too far for a leisure walk or if you prefer public transport, you can sit the karasuma-line from Kyoto station to Shijo Station (210yen) from there it's a 15 mins walk to the market. There is another closer station called Kawaramachi station, 230 meters walk to the market from here.


We found a little hidden soba restaurant inside a matcha store, it's pretty private in here and to my amazement there were only women in this shop but i'm not sure if it was a "only woman" dining area because i didn't bother to ask . Pretty glad it was quiet and hidden so i could breastfeed here in peace while enjoying my piping hot green tea soba that tasted so good that i finished the entire bowl including the soup! The shop's name is Nishiki Ichicha, though they are more known for matcha based desserts but sadly the time i was there, desserts weren't being sold only savory meals but still delicious!


Grilled Unagi, regretted not getting them to try! 
Since it's summer period now, unagi dishes are this season's menu as it's said to give one good stamina (regain energy) during the crazy heat wave.

 This reminds me very much of our "economy rice" back home

 Fried food you can grab while walking

Tiny squid was just too cute to resist but alas it was done in just one bite.
Poor ika-chan

 Highly recommend these soya donuts! 
Deliciously creamy and fluffy that it feels like its melting in your mouth with every bite.
Now i understand why people love these mini donuts, despite it being deep fried the traces of oil is  minimal unlike our usual fried dense donuts


This was my first time at Heian Shrine and like most historical sites in Japan, everything is well preserved against the odds of time and mother nature, also this Shinto temple is known to host important ceremonies and festivals in Kyoto like the Jidai Matsuri. The interior of this temple reminds me of those old imperial courts we usually see in those period movies or dramas, didn't manage to walk around or inside the courtyard area since it was crowded with people witnessing the setsubun ceremony, by the way in case you guys are wondering if there's an entry fee- the answer is no, it's open for all to participate (basically watch la).




You can actually catch setsubun ceremonies in other big temples like Yasaka jinja as well, each temple has its own unique performance.


While walking to the shrine i seriously swore it was going to start snowing or raining again because of the heavy dark clouds hovering over the area for the past hour but to my surprise after the ceremony started which you'll see people reenacting a historical play telling the story of setsubun from its origins up till the moment they end the play/ ceremony with prayers and lighting a bonfire to officially bid winter goodbye. 
Thank goodness i've gotten a new memory card, so i've managed to record some parts of the ceremony and play for you guys to watch if you have missed my previous live streaming.


Considering of getting the guide for other prefectures because it's so useful compared to googling, gives you exactly what you need as a visiting tourist. Covers all major scenes and even hidden ones as well including a complete map of Kyoto and one for transportation (bus/ trains).

In accurate period costumes, the archer shoots an arrow at the "oni (demon/ monster)"

Here's the scary looking oni, definitely thumbs up to the performer for putting up an realistic act that even some adults standing by the barricade were scared as he came charging and screaming.
I remembered Mariko fussing when she heard the oni growls, guess she didn't like it as well since it's usually quite hard to wake her despite loud noises (she sleeps like a rock).

Bonfire ritual
The heavy gloomy clouds somehow cleared up revealing the bright blue sky as they were about to lit the bonfire, it really felt like winter was just blown away for that moment and slight warmth came over

Bean scattering session and everyone trying to catch these blessed bean packs to scatter at home.
Can get unusually rowdy here so best not to bring small kids along or just wait at the back instead.


Some of you managed to catch the live streaming that day, thank you for viewing it and wished i could have streamed the whole thing from start to end but my phone battery was already dying, will makes sure to pack more portable batteries to charge my phone next time. This was my first time using the live streaming function on Facebook despite it being there for quite some time already (sorry i'm slow), rather cool actually but one must definitely have a stable connection or else it will just disconnect halfway through the streaming or can't even connect.
Glad that i chose to use NinjaWifi pocket wifi hotspot for my trip because it has kept me connected during my whole stay in Japan even at the most crucial moments like calling back to Malaysia (via whatsapp) and communicating with Mariko's Godparents, i can't imagine what would have happened if i didn't have any internet connection at all, sounds like a real horror scenario. NinjaWifi has proven itself undoubtedly one of the most reliable pocket wifi services in Japan and their coverage is wide too, providing unlimited data with a decent price rate. 

Price is only RM35 a day (unlimited high speed connection) or lesser if you book them during promotional periods, definitely cheaper than using our own telco data roaming services which is like RM36 per day.
And thanks to NinjaWifi for hearing me out, they are providing a special 20% off (their usual is only 10%) discount specially from my readers/ followers!

Just click this link and it will automatically apply the 20% discount when you check out: 



Seem live streaming is the new social media "trend" but you'll need very stable connection for this wherever you are, i trust NinjaWifi for my travels to Japan.

 BONUS FEATURE

Oh, found a good use for the selfie stick instead of just taking selfies. You can use it as a hand extension especially in crowded places when you want to photograph or record a video, it can sometimes be rather trying to hold your hand upwards too long so why not just use the stick instead. The video and photos shot were perfect and non shaky! 


You know.. I can't help thinking about this as my setsubun wasn't like everyone else's because that night itself my daughter was gone.
Locals would probably say that probably my child's soul was robbed that night by the demons that was supposed to be chased away if i had thrown mame-maki around the place i was residing in. And of all nights i've somehow dozed off into a deep sleep out of the blue when that doesn't usually happen as i tend to be a light paranoid sleeper ever since my daughter came into this world, you can ask my family members who stayed with me before. Prior to giving birth even an earthquake couldn't wake me up but after delivering the slightest movement or sound startles me.

Though this isn't my religion or practice to believe in (Shinto/ Buddhism), i just couldn't help wondering about it since this ceremony has been practiced for decades for a reason especially cases like these (probably).
I somewhat sound like some crazy delusional old lady right now, but it hurts alot not having any forms of closure and left all alone to move on. If only answers fall from the heavens like those religious books we read about or dramatic movie scenes.

Looking back at our travel photos together, i'm glad i had this time spent with her though it was short and it gives me hope that i'll see her again soon. Till that time comes, i'll continue to do the things i wanted to do with her as if she's still around just not physically, might sound rather strange to some but i've never been a normal person to begin with anyway. Odd more like it.

A promise is a promise, our next trip together would be on her 1st birthday and till then i'll continue working hard for the both of us.
With that being said, i'll finally bring this chapter of our travels to an end, i really do wish there was more adventurous together.


All i prayed for was a happy family life with my daughter. 
I didn't need anything more, because i had her in my arms.
But yet you had to take her back, maybe everyone was right that i wasn't good enough



A tired and sad heart,

CONVERSATION

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