One of Japan’s most quirky festivals, this weekend heralds a period were you can throw beans at people with abandon! Setsubun (節分, literally ‘holiday at the end of winter’) is celebrated on February 3 and 4 across Japan, a day before the start of spring as per the Japanese lunar character.
In accordance with ancient Japanese traditions, Setsubun is held at the start of spring in order to get rid of evil spirits, and invite good luck into people's lives. It is said that during the New Year, spirits hover between the boundary of the ghost and physical world, so it is necessary to drive out any spirits that may have slipped through the boundary and entered the houses of the living.
For the modern Setsubun festival, people throw small packets of roasted soybeans at a person wearing the oni (鬼, demon) mask, chasing them out of the house! While throwing beans, everyone shouts ‘Oni wa soto! Fuku wa uchi!’ (鬼は外、福は内), literally ‘demons out, good luck in!’. The demons run outside, the bad luck accumulated throughout the year going with them. People also attend public events where demons run amok amongst the crowd, getting showered with beans along the way O.O
And now comes the part of Setsubun that the adults cringe away from; once the demon has successfully been exorcised and miracuously transformed back into human form, everyone eats the number of beans that corresponds to their age (plus one more for good luck). Doing this is supposed to ward away illness and keep those pesky demons away, so don’t invoke their wrath by wishing some of those wrinkles away~
In the Kansai area, people also enjoy a tastier element of Setsubun- eating a makizushi roll (fat roll of sushi) in silence while facing the year’s lucky compass direction (determined by the year’s zodiac symbol). Cutting the roll so close to the New Year period is seen as inauspicious, so good luck trying to get it all down!
Why not replicate this tradition at your own home? Grab some roasted nuts, choose the unfortunate demon, and banish bad luck ~