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Ultimate Guide to Setsubun (AKA the Bean Throwing Festival)

By Emily Talbot | January 14, 2022

Setsubun (節分), literally “seasonal division”, marks a special occasion in Japan's old lunar calendar- winter’s end and the beginning of cherry-blossomed spring.

Wherever you are and whoever you are with, Setsubun (aka the Bean Throwing Festival) is a time to herald in the warmer months with light-hearted festivities and rituals centred around- you guessed it- beans!

Across Japan on February 3rd (or February 2nd in 2021, for the first time in over 30 years), people take part in various unique rituals. It’s common to see folk throwing roasted beans at men dressed as demon-like oni while chanting “Oni wa soto! Fuku wa uchi!” meaning “Demons out, luck in!”. Hordes of locals cluster around shrines, hoping to catch fukumame (lucky beans) tossed by celebrities, politicians and shrine leaders. These beans are not only thrown but also eaten for good luck!

Been shopping in Japan recently? You might have spotted some things you didn't before- demonic masks, plastic bags of roasted beans, and long rolls of uncut sushi.  These individual items each play an important part in Setsubun celebrations.

Read on to explore where, when, and how you can participate in Setsubun's wonderfully unique rituals, and, (duh!) catch some magic beans.

This article is part of our extensive series on living in Japan. If you're looking for online Japanese lessons, look no further  for affordable group and private lessons!

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    What is Setsubun about? 

    Setsubun no hi (the day of the season change) is one of many celebrations associated with Japan’s Spring Festival (春祭, Haru matsuri). That's because Setsubun - the last day of winter according to the old lunar calendar- is followed by Risshun (立春), the first official day of spring!

    In ancient times, Setsubun was not a festival, but a way to celebrate a prosperous harvest and wish well for the coming year. It was only in the Edo period when temples and shrines began transforming many traditional events into larger public festivals, that Setsubun took off.

    Nowadays, Setsubun’s rituals are said to “cleanse” the nation and its peoples from past misfortunes and usher in a year of health and happiness. Whilst it remains an integral part of traditional Japanese seasonal celebrations, Setsubun has been heavily modernised and commercialised over time. Every year on the day, crowds fill bustling streets, stores brim with new Setsubun foods, and celebrities come out to shrines and temples to attract eager bean-catchers.

    “Oni wa soto fuku wa uchi!” (Demons out, luck in!)

    Good and evil are portrayed as mythical figured during Setsubun. Evil spirits are depicted as oni (demons) and fortune as otafuku (round-faced, flat-nosed women). 

    One Setsubun ritual known as oni yarai shinji (oni purification / ogre exorcism rituals), involves men in oni costumes parading through streets, or the ceremony’s host temple or shrine. Mame (beans) are thrown at them as everyone shouts “oniwa soto fuku wa uchi!” loudly!

    Setsubun oni ehomaki

    What rituals are observed during Setsubun?

    The actual ritual

    Mamemaki  (豆撒き, "bean throwing") is the main ritual associated with Setsubun. Traditionally, mamemaki was done primarily within the family home. Now, hundreds of shrines across Japan hold bean-throwing festivals that draw huge crowds hoping to get their share of seasonal luck! In some cases, invited guests throw shelled peanuts (a more sanitary option), candy, or even cash!

    Depending on the context, you might be throwing the mame (beans) or have others throwing them at you.

    If you’re doing the throwing, you are probably aiming at oni (鬼), Japanese ogres/demons portrayed by men at public ceremonies or fathers within the household. Similarly, it is traditional for men to dress up as Santa Claus during Christmas time. The only difference is that Santa brings gifts and good cheer, while oni bring ill-health and negative energy!

    So why not partake in this lively and humorous ritual? After all, who doesn't want to be blessed with health and happiness! (Plus, it’s practically impossible to do it without grinning!)

    If the mame are being thrown at you, you’d have to either be dressed as the scary oni, or attend an incredibly popular mamemaki event! Here, shrine officials, and other invited guests such as celebrities and elected officials, throw the mame into crowds below, often clad in traditional kamishimo clothing. If you catch them, it is said health and prosperity will bless your spring. Watch this mamemaki event in action at the Buddhist Temple Naritatasan Shinjoji

    Ok, but why are soybeans, of all things, thought to bring good luck? In Japan, mame are considered sacred food items. Plus, since throwing them is supposed to defeat the evil spirits, they were deemed more effective than their smaller staple alternative- rice. 

    When buying mame, make sure they’re roasted! Me in Japanese means buds, and also eyes. It is said that throwing raw mame at oni helps them grow eyes- which is not what you want!

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    Food

    Beans: You might be thinking- What happens to all these fukumame (lucky beans) after they’ve been thrown? They get eaten! It is also said that eating the number of mame to match your age is lucky. Therefore, if you are 30, eat 30 beans in a row to be blessed for the coming season. 

    At public mamemaki events, you may see people holding up plastic bags to collect the flying beans before they get dirtied by the ground. Some places now throw shelled peanuts instead to mitigate health and safety risks. 

    Sushi: Setsubun is a great time to be a sushi lover. A custom that started in the Kansai region, where eating an entire roll of sushi in one go was deemed lucky, has recently spread all throughout Japan. However, there are a few requirements for eating it. 

    Ehomaki (恵方巻き), literally “lucky direction sushi roll" should be consumed in the evening of celebrations, facing the lucky direction of the year. In 2022, this will be north-northwest! As you munch away at it, you must stay silent and keep your eyes shut. It’s harder than it sounds because it’s so chunky and oh-so-tasty. 

    Look out for stores trying to capitalize on your desire for luck by selling other fuku (福) or lucky foods, like "lucky direction" pizzas and sweets. It’s not that these are unlucky, but if you’re following tradition, start by digging into an ehomaki.

    Drink

    Drinks are undoubtedly a vital part of any celebration. Nowadays, it is common for adults in Japan to toast to a prosperous spring with a cup of nihonso (日本酒) commonly known as sake. But, of course, the good luck only comes when you drink it in- you guessed it- the year’s lucky direction! 

    Ehonomi, literally “lucky direction drinking” during Setsubun coincides with the availability of new seasonal sake brews. In the Tochigi Prefecture, breweries, liquor wholesalers and retailers have pushed this ritual to increase local sake consumption... And we’re not complaining! 

    Want to learn more about where and how sake is made? Check out our guide to Japan’s Sake Breweries here!

    Around the house

    Arguably the most peculiar Setsubun custom of all is hiiragi iwashi (柊鰯), literally “holly and sardine heads”. Cooked sardine heads are impaled on the holly and attached to, or around, houses’ front doors. 

    Their strong fishy stench and gruesome appearance aim to repel the oni (demons) and the illness and poverty they bring, while the sharp holly leaves poke out the eyes of the more daring demons.

    In Nara Prefecture and the Kanto region, hiiragi iwashi can be found everywhere, but they are less common elsewhere in places like Kyoto. Parts of Tokyo do it a little differently- adding mamegara (a soybean sprig after removing seeds) to the hiiragi iwashi.

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    How can I join in public festivities for Setsubun?

    Catch beans at a mamemaki ceremony 

    Although most setsubun festivals feature a range of ceremonial rituals and proceedings, it’s common for people to arrive just in time for the maemaki (bean-throwing) ceremony. Tight crowds try their best to catch the packets of fukumame (lucky beans) thrown their way with outstretched hands. 

    If you’re lucky, the fukumame might even be thrown at you by local celebrities- dancers, politicians or sumo wrestlers! From an elevated platform or large stage near the ceremony’s site, invited guests throw the fukumame at the oni (demon) when they arrive, and later out towards the crowd, leaving beans scattered everywhere. 

    This ritual lasts a minute or two at most as this is the time it takes for people to get through their portion of the beans. So make sure to be prompt!

    For one of Tokyo’s biggest and best mamemaki ceremonies, head to Sensoji Temple or Zojoji Temple. Such mamemaki ceremonies draw large crowds and can get quite boisterous. Plus, the fight for bean-catching can be fierce, so be aware and expect some discomfort.

    Attend a Setsubun festival at a local shrine or temple 

    If you want to experience Setsubun fully, take part in your local community's "cleansing" ceremony, which includes traditional purification rituals, performances featuring oni (demon), and the distribution of fukumame (lucky beans). 

    Formal proceedings differ based on location, but the scary-looking oni will certainly make an appearance, and you’d be seriously unlucky to leave without at least a bean or two in your hands! 

    One of the most elaborate and famous oni yarai shinji (Spring Ogre exorcism ritual) is held in Iwashimizu Hachimangū, just south of Kyoto. To accommodate large crowds, there are two ceremonies- one at 1pm and then another at 2pm, held the Sunday before Setsubun so that people of all ages can attend. Check out the ceremony here!

    Eat traditional Japanese food and experience Japanese entertainment 

    Food: The streets surrounding any Japanese festival are lined with stalls offering Japanese street food classics such as yakisoba, yakitori and ikayaki!

    During Setsubun, yatai (street vendors) are everywhere. In fact, you’re likely to smell them before you see them. The sweet smell of dango and the rich aroma of yakitori waft through the wintery streets, adding an extra layer of warmth to the fizzing festival atmosphere. It really is true that yatai are the best place to taste authentic Japanese food. Wherever you go you'll also find that regional variations on Japanese favorites are common, so you'll get a true taste of the region.

    Entertainment: Some regions put on special Kagura dance performances during Setsubun as part of the main festivities. Typically, they are accompanied by the unmistakable sound of the taiko drum, or Japanese flutes. Other dances illustrate dramatic battles between the oni (the evil ogre) and otafuku (the good-fortuned woman). 

    In some parts of Japan such as Kyoto, you can also buy packets of fukumame and arrows blessed by priests and thrown as part of ceremony rituals.

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    Best 7 temples and shrines to watch mamemaki

    Sensoji (Asakusa, Tokyo) 

    When: February 3, 2:30 pm - 5:15 pm
    Location: Sensoji Temple, 2-3-1 Asakusa, Taito-ku, Tokyo

    Sensoji Temple was somewhat of a trend-setter, popularising the mamemaki ceremony after holding the first one of its kind. As you stand among the crowd of 100,000, you will not hear the traditional chant  “oni wa soto, fuku wa uchi” as the bean-throwing begins, but “Senshuu banzei fuku wa uchi"  (Long life and good fortune, enter!”). Officials changed the phrase to omit mention of oni because worshippers believed that demons could not possibly come near the goddess to whom the temple is dedicated. 

    Although the bean-throwing ritual is the main event, you can watch the “Seven Lucky Gods Dance” ritual beforehand, which is performed by masked dancers accompanied by taiko drums and flutes. To beat the crowds, arrive early for the bean throwing which begins no later than 4pm.

    Ikegami Honmonji (Ota, Tokyo)

    When: February 3. Parade at 1pm. Tsuinashiki at 2pm. Bean-scattering at 3pm.
    Location: Ikegami Honmonji Temple, 1-1-1 Ikegami, Ota-ku

    For Setsubun, Ikegami Honmonji Temple hosts a tsuinashiki (ceremony to ward off evil spirits), a bean-tossing ceremony and a prayer parade wishing good health for the year ahead. 

    More than 13,000 people attended the event during the day, hoping to catch a glimpse of the festival's esteemed guests, including professional sumo wrestlers and martial artists. You can join the audience that huddles around the 50-metre long stage to watch the ceremony, but expect it to get pretty tight.

    Fudogaoka Fudoson Soganji (Kazo, Tokyo)

    When: February 3, 1pm onwards
    Location: 2-9-18, Fudooka, Kazo Saitama

    Every year, this humble temple comes alive for its largest annual event - oni oi mame maki shiki (demon expelling bean festival)- a Setsubun festivity that dates back some 400 years.

    Thousands arrive every year to witness this event, which begins with a bell chime and 3 oni (demons) stompin through the temple's corridors to the beat of a taiko drum.

    The red oni holds a torch, and the blue one is armed with a sword, while the third, a black-masked demon, flaunts a spectacular club. Their fierce dance is nothing short of spectacular to watch! Once the dance concludes, the oni face the inevitable- an onslaught of hard beans!

    Setsubun Setsubun temple tokyo

    Zojoji (Minato, Tokyo)

    When: February 3. Event from 11:30 am. Bean-throwing from 12:20 pm.
    Location: Zojoji Temple, 4-7-35 Shibakoen, Minato-ku, Tokyo (Near Tokyo Tower)

    The highly popular Setsubun event at Zojoji Temple starts a little differently- with a special ceremony wishing health and happiness upon those born in the current zodiac year. In 2022, these will be those born in the year of the Tiger!  

    On a wide stage outside the temple, politicians, sumo wrestlers and celebrities dress up in traditional attire and throw soybeans out towards the crowds. Mochi-tsuki and oni dances are also performed, serving as a beautiful backdrop for the bean-throwing that follows. 

    Gojoten (Taito, Tokyo)

    When: February 3. Ceremony starts from 3pm.
    Location: 4-17 Uenokoen, Taito City, Tokyo 110-0007

    Gojoten Shrine hosts an incredible Shinto ritual called Ukera-no-Shinji, which involves a series of dramatic activities and dance. 

    Firstly, hikimeshiki, where the head priest fires arrows to protect the temple and exorcise evil spirits. After some more dancing, the mamemaki takes place. As well as beans, shrine staff also toss leaves of Chrysanthemum flowers. Afterwards, head to a nearby yatai (food stall) to buy the shrine’s very own ukera mochi, made from sticky rice, mixed with the plant okera!

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    Okunitama (Fuchu, Tokyo)

    When: February 3. Mamemaki start at 11am, 2pm, 6pm.
    Location: Oku 〒183-0023 Tokyo, Fuchu, Miyamachi, 3 Chome−1

    One of the five major shrines in Tokyo, Okunitama Shrine offers several spectacular mamemaki events throughout the day. Each welcomes a number of high-profile guests. TV stars, sumo wrestlers, athletes, and Fuchu City’s cuddly, orange mascot Fuchukoma have all taken part in previous years.

    The festivities last all afternoon. When the beans are thrown, everyone shouts "Fortune in!" ("Fuku wa uchi!") to wish for good luck throughout the year. You can also see a parade along the main route to the shrine, during which beans will be tossed.

    Shinryuji (Shimokitazawa, Tokyo)

    When: February 3. Check website.
    Location:  2 Chome-36-15 Kitazawa, Setagaya City, Tokyo 155-0031

    For something other than your standard public Setsubun ceremony, head to Shinryuji Temple. Yes- there’s still bean-throwing, but the real highlight is the afternoon parade, where a huge, tengu head is paraded through the streets in the afternoon, followed by hundreds of children in oni masks! The parade, called the Tengu Parade, begins at Shinryuji Temple and spills out around the surrounding Shimokitazawa area.

    Honorable mentions: Naritasan Fudoson (Narita, Osaka)

    When: February 3. 10:00 am and 1:00 pm
    Location: Naritasan Shinshoji Temple, 10-1 Narita Nishimachi, Neyagawa, Osaka 572-0005

    For Osaka’s finest Setsubun festival, head to Naritasan Fudoson. Alongside 40 thousand other eager spectators, you’ll get to enjoy a series of exciting rituals and a chance to catch beans tossed by celebrities, athletes and kabuki actors! 

    Its mamemaki ceremonies are quite literally agush with spectators. The two at 10 am and 1 pm use over 860kg of beans and 400kg of peanuts! The first, at 10am, is typically the largest. I recommend going to the later one at 1 pm to beat the crowds. If you want a chance of catching the beans, you’ll need to arrive at least an hour in advance.

    Setsubun oni parade

    Honorable mentions: Kawasaki Daishi (Kawasaki, Kanagawa) 

    When: February 3. 11:30 a.m., 2:00 p.m., 4:30 p.m
    Location: Kawasaki Daishi, 4-48 Daishimachi, Kawasaki-ku, Kawasaki-shi, Kanagawa Prefecture

    This famous Buddhist temple- officially known as Heiken-ji Temple, Grand Head Temple of the Chisan Sect of Shingon Buddhism in Kinjoin,  is considered a very auspicious site, visited by 2.6 million people at the start of every new year alone. 

    Attracting over 10,000 participants, this mamemaki is by far the largest in the Kanagawa Prefecture. The crowds here make an impressive sight! 

    Nervous you’ll put a foot wrong during your temple or shrine visit? Sharpen up on your etiquette in our ultimate guide to temples and shrines in Tokyo.

    BONUS: Tokyo Tower (Tokyo)

    When: February 3. Mamemaki ceremony starts at 10:45am.
    Location: 4 Chome-2-8 Shibakoen, Minato City, Tokyo 105-0011, Japan

    Enjoy stunning city views and Instagrammable shots from the top of the city’s most recognisable structure. Up on the 150m-high deck, a priest and the strange cone-headed Noppon mascots say a special prayer and start the bean-throwing. 

    To get up to the deck, you’ll have to pay an admission fee of 900 yen (around $8) for adults and 350 yen (about $3) for children 4 years old and younger. This magnificent 300-m tall structure is often likened in shape to the Eiffel Tower. This was purposeful, and so was its even greater height. Looking out from it, you’ll feel on top of the world!

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    5 mouth-watering foods you will find at Setsubun festivals 

    Japanese food is undoubtedly the highlight of festivals for many. As well as Japanese festival staples such as yakitori chicken skewers, yakisoba noodles and karaage chicken, many Setsubun yatai (street vendors) offer something a little more special. I’ve picked out five delicious foods you might find during the festivities! 

    1. Ehomaki

    Ehomaki (恵方巻), these long uncut sushi rolls eaten for good luck on Setsubun are available. While they traditionally have seven fillings, these vary, so you will doubtless be able to pick from several different options, like anago and eel kabayaki, and thinly sliced shiitake mushrooms. Sold initially at food markets in the 1800s in Osaka, ehomaki are now widely available at convenience stores.

    2. Ayu  

    A yummy, filling treat on the go, salt-grilled ayu sweetfish is the perfect comforter for a cold winter’s day. Traditionally, ayu (香魚) is grilled over charcoal, before being skewered, sprinkled with a thick layer of salt and stood upright over piping hot coal until serving. Because ayu is so popular in the summer, it serves as a reminder of warmer months for many Japanese people.

    3. Iwashi

    You can buy whole iwashi (イワシ), or sardines, at yatai, having either been grilled or fried. Like grilled ayu, iwashi come skewered and you can eat as much or as little of the fish as you would like. Chefs often arrange them in a distinctive circle, with the charcoal sitting at the centre. Expect them to have a dense, oily, and if grilled, slightly smokey flavour.

    Setsubun yatai food sardines

    4. Daifuku  

    These small, round, and sweet mochi (soft rice cakes) are a much-loved wagashi (Japanese dessert). Daifuku (大福) is created by crushing boiled or steamed rice and filling the shell with mildly sweet anko (red bean paste). They are loved for their chewy outside and creamy filling. Sweet shops and yatai around the festival may also sell mamemaki daifuku - a bean roll in the shape of the lucky ehomaki.

    5. Setsubun rolls  

    During Setsubun, yatai, and convenience stores, sell spongey rolls that resemble ehomaki but are filled with cream and fruit, or sweet paste. Some sweet Setsubun rolls have banana or strawberry at their centre, while more bittersweet options, particularly popular in Kyoto, are rolled with a chewy matcha dough containing azuki beans and sweet natto

    How can I celebrate Setsubun if I have to work or stay indoors? 

    Working late or planning on staying indoors on the third of February? Why not have a DIY setsubun at your own home! 

    Make ehomaki for you and your loved ones

    Making ehomaki is fun and easy- all you need is some fresh ingredients, seaweed and rice. It’s up to you what you put in it, but traditionally, seven fillings are put in to represent the seven Deities in Japanese folklore. Popular choices include anago and eel kabayaki, egg, and boiled shiitake mushrooms. 

    To create the ehomaki, simply spread a thick layer of rice over your seaweed sheets, line up your chosen ingredients on the bed of rice, and wrap them up tightly. Remember, chopping up the sushi roll is bad luck! In case you needed a refresher, here’s an article summarising how to make the perfect sushi rice and roll up the perfect ehomaki

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    Have one family member dress up as oni and throw fukumame at them


    If you can’t make a public Setsubun celebration, gather your loved ones at home to dispel bad luck and usher in the good! To conduct the mamemaki ritual, all you need is one person dressed as the oni (typically the father of the household, but it can be anyone!) and a few handfuls of beans. 

    There really aren’t many rules around how to do it. You can take turns playing the oni if the kids or loved ones want a go. Oni masks and costumes are widely available in supermarkets and convenience stores, but for a private mamemaki, a basic paper mask is the standard. 

    When it comes to the bean-throwing, you can either throw the beans directly from the packet, or, to be even more traditional, toss them from masu. Don’t forget to shout Oni wa soto, fuku wa uchi!” as you throw them towards your oni! Something to bear in mind is that it’s deemed particularly auspicious for the toshi otoko- the male member of the household born in the same year of the Chinese zodiac as the current year- to play the role of the oni. In the name of gender equality, this has now been extended to women too- toshi onna

    Fun fact: You’ll find that most oni masks are red, depicting aka oni- the red demon, who represents greed. However, demons of 4 other colours appear during Setsubun, each representing one of the 5 Hindrances of Buddhism! Blue demons , ao oni denote sadness and anger, yellow or white demons, kiiro oni symbolize restlessness, green demons, midori oni are sluggishness and black demons, kuro oni represent indecisiveness.

    Setsubun Japanese family home celebration

    Got kids? Do some Setsubun crafting activities

    If you’ve got kids in the house, or a secret love for colouring-in, why not make the oni mask yourself? 

    Here are some colouring-in oni masks that take under 10 minutes to print, colour and cut which are great for younger kids. If your kids could do with something more to keep them entertained, check out these Setsubun craft activity ideas that use simple household items!

    For the truly time-poor, here are pre-coloured, downloadable masks

    Want to teach your kids more about Setsubun? Learning about Setsubun food, customs and traditions with the little ones is made easy with these downloadable resources.

    Turn on the television

    Some of Tokyo’s biggest public Setsubun displays are televised! If you switch on the television during the day, you’ll be able to watch the hustle-bustle of the city streets and highlights from the traditional Setsubun festivals.

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    Where can I buy beans, oni masks and ehomaki for Setsubun?

    Convenience stores and supermarkets 

    Around setsubun season, you’ll find stores with special spaces for setsubun items. 

    Fukumame (lucky beans) are available in the lead-up to Setsubun at Japan’s widespread convenience store chains like 7-Eleven, Family Mart and Lawsons and Don Quixote, as well as supermarkets in Tokyo like OK Super, Gyomu Super and Life. Close to the date of Setsubun, you will likely find them in a separate Setsubun section, or right next to the counter for your convenience. Many stores sell them with a complimentary oni no men (demon mask) printed on thick paper. 

    A variety of ehomaki (lucky direction sushi rolls) can also typically be found in the same section as the other Setsubun goodies, coming in various sizes with variations of the seven traditional fillings. 

    Left your Setsubun purchases too late? Try a 24-hour store to pick up your necessities at your leisure. 

    100 yen stores

    For the cheapest deals on your Setsubun items, head to an 100 yen store! There are loads to choose from. In Tokyo, check out Daiso (ダイソー), Can Do (キャンドゥ), Seria (セリア) or Natural Kitchen (ナチュラルキッチン).

    Setsubun festivals 

    There’s no chance you won’t find the Setsubun food and costumes you need at the yatai (street vendors). In the larger cities, it isn’t uncommon for hundreds of tightly packed yatai to line the streets leading to the place of the mamemaki event! 

    Depending on the stall, you might be served fukumame loosely, or in pre-sealed bags. Not a big bean fan? Buy and eat some peanuts instead to get your fair share of good luck for the spring season!

    If you opt to buy an ehomaki, why not save it for the evening? According to Japanese tradition, that’s the luckiest time to eat them.

    Setsubun food festivals

    10 words you will hear at at Setsubun festival

    Japanese

    Romaji

    English

    節分

    setsubun

    bean-throwing ceremony

    屋台

    yatai

    food stall

    立春

    risshun

    first day of spring

    神輿

    jinja

    shinto shrine

    寺 

    tera

    buddhist temple

    鬼の面

    oni no men

    devil’s mask

    恵方巻き

    ehomaki

    lucky sushi roll

    節分祭

    setsubunsai

    Bean-throwing festival

    福は内、鬼は外。

    “fuku wa uchi, oni wa soto”

    Devils out! Good luck in!

    福豆

    fukumame

    Magical/lucky beans

    Want to learn more phrases? Check out our Ultimate Guide to Useful Japanese Phrases!

    How to make the most out of your next Setsubun in 10 steps

     

    1. Look out for oni and otafuku

    In the leadup to Setsubun, you’ll see oni (demon) faces plastered everywhere- across packaging, advertisements and street art. The face of otafuku - the fortuitous, round-faced woman- might also pop up in interesting places! Some stores decorate their shelves with special Setsubun decorations for the weeks prior to and following the day.

    2. Buy your fukumame in advance

    Whether from a supermarket, 100 yen store or convenience store, get yourself some beans before Setsubun so you’re ready to scare away the bad spirits!

    3. Share the mamemaki ceremony with a friend or family member

    Why not bring along a companion to share the once in a lifetime bean-throwing experience with? If you’re not very familiar with your area, Google shrines and temples near you to find Setsubun ceremonies near you.

    4. Take a bag to collect fukumame

    Due to fierce competition at mamemaki ceremonies, it's easy to miss or only catch a few of the thrown beans. Increase your chances of catching some by taking a small bag or sack to hold up as they fly towards you.

    5. Get to know your surroundings

    During Setsubun, temples and shrines get very crowded, so it can be easy to get lost or lose your belongings. Familiarise yourself with your surroundings prior to the day so you know where the nearest toilets are, and to avoid being led in the wrong direction.

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    6. Keep an eye on time

    While ritualistic practices can last for long periods of time, mamemaki (bean-throwing) ceremonies don’t typically last longer than a couple of minutes. Commit to one of the set times, and plan to arrive well in advance so you don’t miss out.

    7. Explore the yatai 

    Yatai street vendors have so much to choose from. Keep warm with some hot traditional food, and don’t be afraid to try something new, like an iwashi (sardine) head. Being adventurous can be a little uncomfortable, but you don’t want to later regret not giving something a go!

    8. Eat an ehomaki for good luck

    Before bed, don’t forget to munch your delicious lucky sushi roll in silence, in the year’s lucky direction (this year, it’s north-northwest). 

    9. Have some at-home Setsubun fun 

    Even if you do not choose to attend a public celebration during Setsubun, the evening is a great time to get festive and throw beans in the privacy of your own home. Enjoy a hearty meal and get crafty to celebrate good health and the warmer months.

    10. Don’t forget the magic words! 

    There’s never a bad time to chant “Oni wa soto, fuku wa uchi!”, which, in case you forgot, roughly translates to “Demons out, fortune in!” Say it whenever- to a friend in passing, and passionately as you throw beans at the oni!

    Interested in learning other festivals? Head over to our Ultimate Guide to Japanese Festivals!

    Setsubun japanese festival setsubun

    Final Thoughts 

    In preparation for the arrival of spring, Setsubun is a joyful occasion where friends and family join together to welcome good luck for the year to come. 

    Attend a setsubun festival or mamemaki at your nearest shrine or temple, and you might be able to capture a selfie with a sumo wrestler, or a terrifying, fully-clad oni! Setsubun festivals, like all festivals in Japan, allow you to become immersed in quintessential Japanese culture. With the bustling yatai and lively bean-throwing festivals, your cup will surely be filled (with happiness and, of course, beans!).

    Don’t worry if you are unable to make it out to a public event. There are plenty of ways to privately enjoy elements of Setsubun, wherever you may be. Turn a sushi evening into a night of making the auspicious ehomoki, make an oni no men (devil’s mask) with your loved ones, snack on some roasted fukumame, and practice your best oni growl.

    Not yet in Japan just yet? Get prepared for life in the Land of the Rising Sun with our super affordable Japanese lessons and choose an online lesson plan that suits you.

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