AIZUWAKAMATSU, Fukushima -- Three feline "staff" donned masks of characters from the runaway hit "Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba" manga series to toss peanuts around Ashinomaki Onsen Station here on Feb. 2 for Japan's "Setsubun" festival, wishing for railway safety and an early end to the coronavirus pandemic.
On Setsubun -- the day before the first day of spring in the traditional Japanese calendar -- people traditionally throw roasted soybeans around to symbolically drive away evil, usually represented by "oni" demons. At the Aizu Railway station, the three cats -- second-generation honorary stationmaster Love, facility manager Peach, and apprentice station attendant Sakura -- had the help of their human colleagues to spread both cheer and peanuts (instead of beans) about the premises.
Ashinomaki Onsen Station has been celebrating the Setsubun ritual with feline friends for nearly 10 years. Homo sapiens station staffer Marina Kobayashi, 36, told the Mainichi Shimbun, "This year, Love and his fellows did their best to kill demons, hoping that the coronavirus would disappear soon."
(Japanese original by Kengo Miura, Aizuwakamatsu Local Bureau)