I saw these masks at the 100 yen shop. It’s common at this time of the year to find such masks being sold with soybeans or peanuts (either one is used) for Setsubun. However, I was wondering about the woman’s mask. That’s rather new to me.
So I asked at Japanese class.
It turns out that this sort of female face is called, “otafuku” お多福．According to my Japanese teachers, long ago this rather plump face was considered beautiful. But nowadays it is considered homely and plain.
The reason why you see it during Setsubun is because the kanji お多福 is literally “A lot of Luck.” So of course, out with the oni, in with the luck. (Oni wa soto, fuku wa uchi.)
And does that face remind you of any childhood illnesses? Plump swollen cheeks? Mumps! The words for mumps is Otafuku Kaze, due to its similarity to the otafuku face.
Okay, more fun Setsubun stuff coming tomorrow!