Setsubun, Tokuan Shrine

Celebrities throw roasted beans in Ikuta Shrine, Kobe

In Japan, Setsubun (節分) is the day before the beginning of each season. The name literally means "seasonal division", but usually the term refers to the spring Setsubun, properly called Risshun (立春) celebrated yearly on February 3 as part of the Spring Festival (春祭 haru matsuri?). In its association with the Lunar New Year, Spring Setsubun can be thought of (and was previously thought of) as a sort of New Year's Eve, and so was accompanied by a special ritual to cleanse away all the evil of the former year and drive away disease-bringing evil spirits for the year to come. This special ritual is called mamemaki (豆撒き, lit. bean scattering).


Mamemaki is usually performed by the toshiotoko (年男) of the household (i.e., the male who was born on the corresponding animal year on the Chinese zodiac), or else the male head of the household. Roasted soybeans (called Fuku mame) are thrown either out the door or at a member of the family wearing an Oni (demon or ogre) mask, while the throwers chant "Oni wa soto! Fuku wa uchi!" (鬼は外! 福は内!). The words roughly translate to "Demons out! Luck in!" The beans are thought to symbolically purify the home by driving away the evil spirits that bring misfortune and bad health with them. Then, as part of bringing luck in, it is customary to eat roasted soybeans, one for each year of one's life, and in some areas, one for each year of one's life plus one more for bringing good luck for the year to come.

Other practices

At Buddhist temples and Shinto shrines all over the country, there are celebrations for Setsubun. Priests and invited guests will throw roasted soy beans (some wrapped in gold or silver foil), small envelopes with money, sweets, candies and other prizes. In some bigger shrines, even celebrities and sumo wrestlers will be invited; these events are televised nationally. Many people will come, and the event turns wild, with everyone pushing and shoving to get the gifts tossed from above.

It is customary now to eat uncut maki-zushi (巻き寿司) called Eho-Maki (恵方巻) (Lit. "lucky direction roll") on Setsubun while facing the yearly lucky compass direction, determined by the zodiac symbol of that year. Charts are published and occasionally packaged with uncut maki-zushi during February. Some families will also put up small decorations of sardine heads and holly leaves on their house entrances so that bad spirits will not enter.

Regional variations

While the practice of eating maki-sushi on Setsubun is historically only associated with the Kansai area of Japan, the practice has become popular nationwide due largely to marketing efforts by grocery and convenience stores.

In the Tohoku area of Japan, the head of the household (traditionally the father) would take irimame in his hand, pray at the family shrine, and then toss the sanctified beans out the door.

Nowadays peanuts (either raw or coated in a sweet, crunchy batter) are sometimes used in place of soybeans.

There are many variations on the famous Oni wa soto, fuku wa uchi chant. In the Nihonbashi area of Fukushima Prefecture, the chant is shortened to "鬼は外! 福は内!" (Oni wa soto! Fuku wa uchi!). And in the city of Aizuwakamatsu, people chant "鬼の目玉ぶっつぶせっ!" (Oni no medama buttsubuse!), lit. "Blind the demons' eyes!".

See also

External links


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