In February for example, we celebrated Setsubun (part of the spring festival) on February 3rd by having our own Mitsuba Mamemaki (bean throwing) ritual! The premise behind this ritual is to get rid of the devil or bad spirits in your home and life and welcome in luck with the new spring. Literally, a member of the family (or teacher in your school) dresses up in a devil mask and you throw beans or peanuts at them which drives out the devil and brings you good luck and happiness. After, you eat one peanut for each year you've been alive.
In Mitsuba we read a story about Mamemaki and then each kid made a devil mask. At the end of class we took a picture of all the kids in their masks and then there was a surprise visitor! The devil came in the room and took pictures with the kids and then we all threw peanuts at him. It was chaotic but a lot of fun!
|I love the eyes on these two masks!|
|The kids did a great job!|
|Throwing peanuts at the world's cutest devil!|
One of the other great things about Mitsuba is that it's a great place to practice my Japanese! The week I learned how to say "sit down please", "don't do that" and "don't eat yet" in my Japanese class was the most useful one yet! I've also learned so many animal, vegetable and color names in Japanese as well as a ton of Japanese children's games and songs.
Everything I say to the kids is in Japanese and I can understand about 40-50% of what they say to me when they ask me a question or when they tell me about something that they are holding. I get totally lost however when they start babbling to me in 2-year old speak. I wish I could understand because I'm sure it's adorable! Some of the kids get the fact that I speak a different language but don't quite know what to do with that. One little boy doesn't speak to me at all because he doesn't think I can understand. He likes me though and will play with the trains with me almost every morning. But he communicates by pointing and taking my hand to drag me places. Even when I speak to him in Japanese he answers by nodding or using improvised sign language! Almost all of the kids can understand me when I speak but one little girl yesterday laughed and said "omoshiroi" (interesting) when she couldn't understand what I was saying. The best though is one of the youngest boys in the group, I think, has a lot of trouble understanding my accent and for a few months no matter what I asked him or said to him he would respond "ni sai" (I'm two)! It was so cute to ask him if he liked his snack and have him answer "I'm two years old!"