Today is the first day of the first month of what we in the West call the Year of the Rabbit, but in Japan is the Year of the Metal Hare. I’m celebrating it with my daughter Jo as the guest of friends in their apartment in Fukuoka. None of the superstitions relating to the Asian zodiac are believed in by our hosts, but they enjoy performing the rituals which they have observed since childhood. The first is to scatter beans whilst chanting “Demons out”. The second (in which I participated with enthusiasm, as it involved eating) is to eat a long roll of sushi in one go, without pausing and, especially, without talking. If you do pause or talk you are condemned to a year of bad luck. All this must be done whilst facing south-east, as each of the animals in the zodiac has a direction, and the metal hare’s is south-east. According to our hosts I performed the task flawlessly, and so if I do happen to suffer from bad luck this year, I won’t be able to blame it on the metal hare.