From February to March, although the weather is still chilly, edible wild plants such as fukinotou (butterbur sprout) and warabi (bracken) peep out on hills and throughout the countryside. At the seaside too, special spring seaweed, only found at this time of the year, can be gathered. This is when village festivals are held all over the island and people begin to feel a new rush of energy.
Setsubun (Bean-Throwing Festival)
The day before spring begins, in the evening, talismans with "12th month" written on them are hung in pairs at the entrance to barns and storehouses. Men born in that lunar year boil and scatter the Setsubun beans, chanting loudly. Family members eat only the number of beans corresponding to their age and pray for good health. Although this custom is still widely practiced all over Japan, Setsubun in Kurohime, Sado Island has a flavor all its own. In the past, to thank the devil for helping them, people shouted, not "out with the devil," but "in with the devil!"
Hinamatsuri (Doll's Festival)
All over Japan the Doll's Festival, which coincides with the peach blossom season, is celebrated with sweet sake (amazake) , diamond-shaped rice cakes (hishi mochi) , and peach blossoms to decorate the stands with their rows of dolls. On Sado the doll stands are decorated with"okoshigata yaseuma", colored dumplings pressed into flower and other shapes. These care filled with sweet bean paste and steamed, and "shinko", pieces of colored dumplings cut from rolled dumpling paste with a pattern running through it so that the same pattern appears each time the roll is cut. This makes a gorgeous display to cheer up the cold days of early spring. Sado, with its long history, has many beautiful and majestic old hina dolls which have been handed down from generation to generation. In recent years, some people with traditional dolls in the family have opened their houses to the public during the Doll's Festival and you can drop in as you stroll through the area to hear about the history of the dolls from the people who own them.
Owaraji (Kuratani's Big Straw Sandals)
On both sides of the entrance to Okuratani in the Mano district, hang huge straw sandals one meter wide and 1.8 meters long. It is said that these were originally to keep out rogues and spirits of evil and sickness by making them think that the sandals were for the giant who lived here. The sandals, made by local people, are hung up with great pomp on the first Sunday in March.
Otaue and Ta-asobi (Rice-planting ritual and performances for a successful rice harvest)
These Shinto rituals are held at New Year, along with those at Okubo, to assure a successful rice harvest. The rice planting ritual (Otaue) is performed on February 6th at Gosho Shrine in Shimokawamo in the Akadomari district. The seven officiants at the shrine where the ritual is held belong to families where the post of officiant is hereditary. The re-enactment of rice-planting, performed in front of the altar, has been designated as an intangible cultural asset of Niigata Prefecture. The ritual Shinto performance of ta-asobi is held at Kobie Shrine in the Ogi district. Here, the entire rice-planting process from tilling the fields to harvesting the rice is re-enacted. This performance, where moles, crows and other creatures appear, is more like a performance of kyogen (traditional short comedic drama) than a Shinto ritual. Both the Otaue and ta-asobi rituals are off limits to women.
Iwanori-tori (Gathering rock seaweed)
It is now, while the sea is still cold, that you can see people gathering seaweed from the rocks around the coast. The seaweed from the rocks is dried in the sun and sprinkled onto miso (soybean paste) soup to impart the fragrance of the seashore.