Today in Japan it's Setsubun, the day which, on the lunar calendar, marks the beginning of Spring. Of course, we're in the thick of winter here, so no such luck, but yeah. On this day, the most widely practiced tradition is to toss roasted soybeans about (out of your house, at temples, etc.) while chanting what's in this post's title: Demons out! Happiness in! After that, one is supposed to eat their age in beans. Today's lunch incorporated a little packet of beans, which was pretty cute. I love it when our lunches are themed to holidays throughout the year.
The point of Setsubun is to drive away demons which would bring illness or ill fortune in general. The only sort of Western equivalent, and not even really equal, but similar in any case, that I can think of is the custom of Spring Cleaning. The whole point of that, as I understand it, is to get rid of clutter and face Spring and the following year all fresh and clean. I associate clutter and dirt with negativity, bad juju, etc. so that's why I make this connection. It's a little early for Spring Cleaning though, as we're not actually in Spring yet, but yeah.
We had some DIY sushi today along with a vegetable soup and some fried shrimp. We've had these hand-rolled sushi lunches a few times before - you're supposed to grab some seaweed paper, put the sushi rice in, grab a filling, then top it with some plum sauce. Simple, fun, and it's a great way to get the kids to eat all their rice. Our fillings were some fried fish (sardine, not pictured because I skipped it in favor of the squid), wiener sausage, omelet, and cucumber. We usually have some salmon with this particular lunch, but I think there was a significance to the other fish - I ate with some of my first graders today, so it may have just been some joking on the part of the teacher, but she mentioned that stinky fish help keep the demons away when you consume them with the beans. I don't know, I'm just reporting what I heard.
As for the soup, it had some konjac, taro stems as well as chunks of the root itself, radish, carrot, onion, shiitake mushroom, and bits of chicken. It was a nice combination with the sushi.
Calorie count: 666 (ooooo demons!)