Tuesday, January 29, 2013

It's SUPER Setsubun!

Well, one year ago ... this week ... we began the best darn travel blog EVER! And, our inaugural blog post was a little tome titled "Soybeans, demons, and a giant tube of sushi." We used the Japanese festival that marks the beginning of spring to catapult ourselves into world holiday relevance and we haven't looked back since -- not even when someone was pelting us with colored dye during Holi or promising us the world's best gelato in Rome.

This week, in honor of our year of holidays & holiDAYtrips and the upcoming Setsubun festivities planned for this [Superbowl] Sunday, we are re-visiting our first blog post. So, read on, my friends. We've even changed a few bits here and there to keep things interesting!

Hi World! Welcome to the holiDAYtrips video blog!
(It’s lovely to make your acquaintance.)

Most days, on Twitter, we post a new world holiday; but, we also wanted to create a forum for posting the video evidence of our global [mis]adventures!
("We," by the way, is me and my husband, Ed!)

Today’s video holiDAYtrip is Setsubun, the Japanese festival that marks the beginning of spring. For centuries, on the day before spring, the Japanese have performed rituals in order to chase away evil spirits and prepare for the new year. One of my favorite Japanese customs, from the 1200s, involved burning dried sardine heads and using the smell to keep bad energy at bay. Now THAT'S a party!

Nowadays, the most popular custom associated with Setsubun is mamemaki, or bean throwing. Of course, there are many variations on mamemaki throughout Japan; but, in a nutshell, families throw roasted soybeans out of their house via the front door (or at a willing volunteer in a devil mask) and shout:
"Oni wa soto! Fuku wa uchi!" (Demons out, happiness in!)

Afterward, everyone picks up and eats the number of beans, which corresponds to their age; and, usually one more for luck.

Roasted soybeans...reminded me of Corn Nuts
So, for our first order of Setsubun business, Ed and I headed to the one place we knew wouldn’t disappoint -- Mitsuwa Marketplace. For those of you who aren’t crazy foodies (like us), Mitsuwa is the largest Japanese supermarket in the United States and has most Japanese specialty items a person could want.

For those of you that are foodies, it turns out that the best time to go to Mitsuwa is at 1:40pm on a Monday.

Once inside, while on the hunt for beans, we were promptly asked to stop filming.

(Aww, fuku mame!)

We eventually found the small Setsubun section – where all the packets of soybeans had a little devil head on the outside. Now that I think twice about it, we may have also found the entrance to Yomi-no-kuni, the Japanese realm of the dead! Good thing we promptly made our purchases and got on our way...

Ed, with Sapporo and Demon Mask (Our usual date tools)

Now, gaining popularity in some parts of Japan is another Setsubun tradition that we were most excited to try – eating a “Lucky Direction” roll, or Eho-Maki. It’s customary to eat this sushi in a very specific way.

First of all, the roll must stay uncut (mmm…sushi tube!); it must contain 7 ingredients (mmm…fat sushi tube!); you must eat it in silence while facing the yearly lucky compass direction, determined by the zodiac symbol of that year.

As 2013 is the Year of the Snake, the lucky direction is South-South-East.
(Don't be thrown by our video, below, saying it's the Year of the Dragon ... that was correct when we first filmed, in 2012.)

Now, all of this would have been fine; however, Ed and I unknowingly stumbled into a sushi restaurant near us that didn’t have a single Japanese person working there!
(Aww, makizushi!)

So, we ended up schooling the sushi chefs on how to perfectly craft our Lucky Direction rolls.

We decided on yellowtail, mango (yellow is a lucky color), avocado,
cucumber, spicy red remoulade, tempura flake, and brown rice.

If you don't like to watch people chew giant mouthfuls of food, you should probably turn back now! Also don't be thrown when I mention (in the video below) that the lucky direction is NNW ... that was the case when we first filmed, in 2012. Again, if you're celebrating Setsubun this year (and I hope you are), the lucky direction for 2013 is South-South-East.

Setsubun was a truly great time. We laughed A LOT and were really excited that this was the first holiDAYtrip that we committed to video! Oni wa soto! Fuku wa uchi!

And, it seems only fitting to leave you with the following…

It's been a particularly great year and I'm guessing that we did Setsubun up right in 2012 and we owe of a debt of gratitude to that old lucky direction and to that big-ass tube of sushi! We made a blog; we changed the name of the blog (did anyone catch that in the credits at the end of the last video?); we celebrated holidays from Japan, Greece, South Korea, India, the United States, and Indonesia; we monetized; we made $3.41; we realized that we love doing this so much that it doesn't matter if we never make more than $3.41.

So, to all of our loyal followers and those of you just joining us for the first time, a hearty THANK YOU! If you can't wait to find out what's next for us ... neither can we!

Get ready for the new year and all that comes with it,


The “Packing List”

This week, we were rocking the following...or close to it:


  1. Hello bLOG

    I really liked your blog and would like to follow it for more.

    I am Danish and living in Tel Aviv,Jaffo, Israel and is working as an bicycle guide, together with an licensed tour guide. Right now we are planning new tours in Jordan, Israel and Sinai.
    The tour in Israel, is from Tel Aviv to Eilat, through Bet Shemesh - Dead Sea and Mitzpe Ramon( the Grand Canyon of Israel).

    I would like to talk to you again,¨

    Thank you

    tonny bruun madsen, bicycle guide Israel
    cell; +972 54 311 9004

  2. Hello! your blog is great, I'd love you to join my travel websites, and you put my link on your site, and so we benefit both.

    I await your response to munekitacate@gmail.com


  3. Congratulations! It's great that you reached one year blogging what you liked. I might also book cheap hotels in one of the places you mentioned. By the way, nice post.

  4. Traveling around the world is one of the most exciting thing to do because you meet new people, taste their delicacies, and see their breath taking beautiful spot.

  5. Thanks for an enlightening review on the subject. Its really looks like you have done a lot of data collection to bring this to life.