Celebrate the Japanese festival of Setsubun and bring good luck for the year ahead by joining in the unique tradition of beanscattering.
Soy beans are used to produce all manner of different foods in Japan – from tofu to soy sauce to edamame – but their functions go beyond culinary uses. On February 3rd, the day before the first day of spring in Japan, the Setsubun festival is celebrated to mark the change of seasons, as well as acting as a sort of New Year’s Eve for the lunar New Year that takes place in January or February.
Intended to drive away evil spirits for the new year ahead, Setsubun celebrations involve ritual throwing of roasted soybeans while chanting the words oni wa soto, fuku wa uchi, which mean ‘demons out, good luck in’. This tradition is known as mamemaki, (‘bean scattering’) and many people either perform it themselves in their family home or attend a shrine where it is performed by priests. At some of the bigger shrines, such as Ikuta Shrine in Kobe, celebrities are invited to join in the procession to the temple and then help to scatter the beans (which may be foil-wrapped) in the shrine. As well as beans, other small items in
envelopes, such as money or sweets, are thrown to the people eagerly waiting below.
Customarily, uncut sushi rolls called ehō-maki are eaten on Setsubun in a tradition that originates from Kansai. Thanks to
promotions by retailers the custom has now spread to elsewhere in Japan. Another commercial aspect of Setsubun is the wide availability of paper demon masks instores in early February, bought by those who choose to perform the Setsubun mamemaki ritual at home. In this case, a member of the family puts on the mask and other family members throw beans at him/her.
Setsubun is one of the times of year when shrines in Japan really come alive, and a strong sense of community can be felt. Anyone can participate in this unique festival. Find out about a Setsubun celebration near you in the blue box below.
By Life in Kansai