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Tomorrow, Japan is celebrating Setsubun!

To chase away all the evils of the previous year and bring good fortune for the year to come, the Japanese celebrate Setsubun every February 3: let’s tell you a bit more about this ritual!

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Every year on February 3, Setsubun, the Bean-Throwing Festival, is celebrated all over Japan. This day is the last before spring, risshun, in the ancient lunar calendar. It’s time to cleanse away the evils of the previous year, drive away evil spirits for the year to come, and attract good fortune.

Setsubun origins go back to tsuina, a Chinese tradition that came to Japan in the 8th century. In the 13th century, the bean-throwing tradition, mamemaki, was added to the celebration of Setsubun.

 
 

The Japanese traditionally celebrate Setsubun at home. Mamemaki is about throwing roasted soy beans through the window or to the head of a member of the family wearing a demon mask while shouting “Oni wa soto! Fuku wa uchi!”, that is “Demons out! Luck in!” Thus, demons are chased away and good fortune brought in. Then, people eat as many beans as their age.

More and more, Setsubun is celebrated in shrines rather than at home. In some Buddhist and Shinto shrines, it’s a great celebrations during which priests and guests launch beans and also envelops with money, sweets and candies, and other little gifts. Sometimes celebrities and sumo wrestlers are invited and celebrations broadcast on TV.

 
 

Some variants

In Kansai, people also eat ehomaki, long maki.

Some families put sardine heads at the entrance of their homes to chase away evil spirits.

Setsubun Mantoro: in Kasuga Taisha shrine in Nara, more than 3.000 lanterns are lit up in the evening for Setsubun. This tradition has lasted for 800 years and most lanterns are gifts from ordinary citizens, except for a few from samurai warriors.

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  • Culture & traditions
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