Alright, so I’m a tad late with today’s post. Setsubun is celebrated on February 3rd but as I had intended to share with you some pictures of our local Setsubun celebration, I delayed the entry until today. Unfortunately, the Setsubun festival at Kumamoto Castle was ridiculously crowded so my pictures may not be very informative.
Setsubun is Japan’s spring festival, celebrated the day before the official first day of spring. The purpose of the holiday is to cleanse the house of the evil spirits of the previous year and purify the home for the year to come. To that end, a special ritual called mamemaki (bean throwing) is enacted. Yup, that’s right. Bean throwing.
When Setsubun is celebrated at home, the eldest male of the household (or a male who was born in the current zodiac year) dons the mask of a red-faced oni (demon). The rest of the household throws soybeans at him, yelling “Oni wa soto, fuku wa uchi“. This literally means “devil out, good luck in”. The beans are thought to purify the home and to cleanse oneself, a roasted soybean is eaten for each year a person has been alive.
Not everyone celebrates Setsubun at home nowadays but most Japanese will go to a local shrine or temple, where priests and special guests will throw out beans and occasionally small trinkets and envelopes of money to those who gather. When I lived in Tokyo, I attended the noon mamemaki at Zojo-ji (the temple of the Tokugawa family) and the invited guests were famous sumo wrestlers. Now THAT was an experience worth braving the beans for! 🙂