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Tokuan shrine
Also called Bean-Throwing Festival, Bean-Throwing Ceremony
Observed by Japanese people
Type Religious, Cultural
Significance Day before the beginning of spring
Date February 3
Next time 3 February 2017 (2017-02-03)
Frequency annual
Related to Spring Festival (Harumatsuri)
Celebrities throw roasted beans in Ikuta Shrine, Kobe

Other practices[edit]

Sardine head talisman on house entrance to keep bad spirits away

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.[1] At Sensō-ji in the Asakusa neighborhood of Tokyo, crowds of nearly 100,000 people attend the annual festivities.[2] Many people come, and the event turns wild, with everyone pushing and shoving to get the gifts tossed from above.

It is customary in Kansai area to eat uncut makizushi called ehō-maki (恵方巻?, lit "lucky direction roll"), a type of futomaki (太巻, "thick, large or fat rolls"), in silence on Setsubun while facing the year's lucky compass direction, determined by the zodiac symbol of that year.[3] This custom started in Osaka, but in recent years eho-maki can be purchased at stores in the Kanto area and it is getting more recognized as a part of Setsubun tradition. Charts are published and occasionally packaged with uncut makizushi during February.[citation needed] Some families put up small decorations of sardine heads and holly leaves (柊鰯 hiragi iwashi) on their house entrances so that bad spirits will not enter. Ginger sake (生姜酒 shōgazake?) is customarily drunk at Setsubun.[4]:120

Historical practices[edit]

The new year was felt to be a time when the spirit world became close to the physical world, thus the need to perform mamemaki to drive away any wandering spirits that might happen too close to one's home. Other customs during this time included religious dance, festivals, and bringing tools inside the house that might normally be left outside, to prevent the spirits from harming them.[4]:120

Because Setsubun was also considered to be apart from normal time, people might also practice role reversal. Such customs included young girls doing their hair in the styles of older women and vice versa, wearing disguises, and cross-dressing. This custom is still practiced among geisha and their clients when entertaining on Setsubun.[4]:120–121

Traveling entertainers (旅芸人 tabi geinin?), who were normally shunned during the year because they were considered vagrants, were welcomed on Setsubun to perform morality plays. Their vagrancy worked to their advantage in these cases because they could take the spirits with them.[4]:121

Regional variations[edit]

While the practice of eating makizushi 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.[5]

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

Peanuts (either raw or coated in a sweet, crunchy batter) are sometimes used in place of soybeans.[6]

There are many variations on the famous Oni wa soto, fuku wa uchi chant. For example, in the city of Aizuwakamatsu, people chant "鬼の目玉ぶっつぶせ!" (Oni no medama buttsubuse!), lit. "Smash the demons' eyeballs!".

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Mishima, Shizuko. "Setsubun – Bean Throwing Festival". Retrieved February 1, 2011. 
  2. ^ "Setsubun Is Right Around the Corner". Japan Travel Bureau. January 29, 2014. Retrieved February 2, 2014. 
  3. ^ "Setsubun – Around February 3". Massachusetts Institute of Technology. March 5, 2002. Retrieved February 2, 2014. 
  4. ^ a b c d Dalby, Liza Crihfield (1983). Geisha. University of California Press. ISBN 0-520-04742-7. 
  5. ^ Lapointe, Rick (February 3, 2002). "Are you ready to roll with the change on 'setsubun no hi'?". The Japan Times. Retrieved February 2, 2014. 
  6. ^ "Setsubun 節分". Japan Reference. Retrieved February 2, 2014. 

External links[edit]