Setsubun ritual at Yoshida shrine, Kyoto

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After the holidays, winter is a quiet season for tourism in Kyoto. Most people do not have vacation for a while after the holidays, and even if they do come to Japan, most people choose to visit very snowy places such as Hokkaido and Nagano. Many customers at Cooking Sun have been or will be going to ski resorts like Niseko, Hakuba, and Nozawa Onsen.

Today’s guests from Australia had also been to Nozawa Onsen before they came to Kyoto. They stayed at the ski resort for 6 days. They had a wonderful time between the great skiing, the many onsen (hot springs), and delicious food. When planning their trip, their travel agency recommended Niseko and Hakuba. However, our guests chose to visit Nozawa Onsen because they wanted to do what tourists don’t usually do! When it comes to international travel, I think everyone wants to experience something very local and personal, not just the typical tourist attractions.

So they were brave enough to experience winter in Kyoto, something the majority of people do not choose to do, but they came prepared! They were very good at researching what was happening in this temple town. They found out that February 3rd is a ritual day called Setsubun, the day we get rid of misfortune and welcome spring. They found a special event that was held at the Yoshida shrine near Kyoto University.

Usually, people bring paper and other small personal belongings that are burned in a bonfire, but somehow they were just collected in a pile but not burned.. According to them, all foreigners who ventured to see the event in the cold weather were wondering why they were not burned.

But this morning, they checked on Google (they are so curious!) and figured out why. Starting this year, the city government changed the regulation on disposing of the ashes and the shrine had to pay a lot of money to clean up the ashes after the bonfire. So, they decided to just collect the papers and not to burn them.

A traditional event could not win against the huge public deficit that burdens this country… haha. Hopefully the festival will go back to normal next year.