|A very scary ogre|
In summery, dried soybeans are thrown while saying “ogres out, fortune in”. This is meant to both ensure a safe and fortunate year and also to bring spring on. I say “ogre” here for the Japanese “oni”. Some people translate oni as devil. I think that’s because they are often red and have horns. Otherwise it’s a silly translation. The oni live in mountains, carry clubs and dress in tiger pelts. They carry off and eat children. My perspective is skewed because I first encountered oni in the picture book “The Red Ogre Who Cried”. It’s a beautiful book about a gentle oni. Anyway, it’s traditional for someone to dress as an oni so that really little kids can throw beans AT THEM, making the whole thing more exciting. This isn't some kind of morality tale where kids get to triumph over the oni though. It's all about the age-honoured Japanese tradition of scaring the crap out of tiny children. In all seriousness, I think it's great. This video is from a kindergarten. As you can see, the Oni don't hold much back. Notice that the boy who repeatedly tries to stand up to the Oni and throw his beans at them gets particularly targeted, eventually getting "abducted". This is a common "Oni" tactic. Can't have the kids being too brave!
One of the tiny elementary schools (a total of ten students at the time I taught there) I taught at held a summer "camp" at the school (it's between a river and a forested mountain) where the kids were challenged to climb the mountain in the dark with flash-lights. The teachers and enthusiastic local sadists hid in the forest and stalked them (rustling the bushes and making weird noises) or even jumping out at them. Not a single kids made it all the way up the mountain without freaking out and running for his or her life back down to the school!