How the Grinch Stole Setsubun, Part 1

They’ve been out my window for 3 days and nights now; screaming morning to night, dark or shine. I have had enough. Today it’s even raining and they’re still out there. いらっしいませ。いかがですか。Come on in, sir! How about it, sir? Squid on a stick! Yakitori! Takoyaki! Hello Kitty candy apples! Squid omelets! Stir fried noodles! How about it, sir? 300 yen! Come on in, sir! Is that all right, sir? Very delicious! All together, all at once, now. COME ON IN, SIR!

I’m peering out the windows, unable to believe my ears. I see those same booths out there, festooned in yellow and red stripes. I see people holding umbrellas eating soaked hot dogs on a stick. Aren’t they tired? Aren’t they hoarse? Aren’t they wet? At first I thought all the ruckus was about Setsubun, celebrated today, February 3rd. There’s a booth on the corner selling devil masks, irimame beans and the traditional giant sushi rolls. Kids everywhere are throwing beans at the devil, shouting, “Devil, out! Luck, in!” Once again, I’m sitting inside, cranky because it’s so darn loud and I’m trying to concentrate on my travel article. I’d envisioned taking to the streets today to check it all out but then it started raining and I started making headway on my story so the sun is setting now and I’m feeling grim and they. are. still. shouting. And, once again, I’ve totally lost focus.  

The first night, I thought they’d pack up and shut up when it turned dark; no such luck. Nor the second night. Nor today. Sean asked his calligraphy teacher what the deal is and she doesn’t think it’s about Setsubun; she thinks it might be a celebration for a temple god. Sean and I live near a large, gated temple which might explain why the whole neighborhood is up in arms but since today is Setsubun my crankiness is directed at that particular holiday. 

These can’t be the same people I’ve been hearing for the past 3 days; they must have shifts. They’ve been coordinating this festival for weeks, carefully slotting people in for the 3 or so hour window they’d be making my life a living hell. Then the next wave comes in. The old one dries off or finally gets some of the fried noodles they’ve been eyeing. Three more hours and they switch again. Or bring even new bleating voices to the fray. 

I just realized, too, that the ridiculously loud bird song I’ve been hearing is fake, piped in, like they do in the subway stations because no way is no bird singing at 5:36 p.m. in the rain. There’s just no way. No how. 

I think my first draft is at a good enough point now where I can take a break. Maybe if I’m part of the chaos it won’t be as %#$^$@ irritating. Or maybe I can add to the chaos. Disturb them while they’re working. 

… to be continued ….

One Reply to “How the Grinch Stole Setsubun, Part 1”

  1. I’m REALLY looking forward to the conclusion.

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