Beginning of spring, Japan

Beginning of spring, Japan

Setsubun Day, Japan


Celebration Date
3rd February
Other Name
Bean-Throwing Festival, Bean-Throwing Ceremony
Holiday Type
Not National Holiday


Setsubun is the day before the beginning of spring in Japan. The name literally means "seasonal division", but usually the term refers to the spring Setsubun, properly called Risshun (Spring) celebrated yearly on February 3 as part of the Spring Festival (Spring Festival haru matsuri). In its association with the Lunar New Year, spring Setsubun can be 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 bean sprinkle, "bean scattering"). Setsubun has its origins in tsuina, a Chinese custom introduced to Japan in the eighth century.

The tradition of Setsubun dates back centuries, but the bean throwing tradition first emerged in the Muromachi period (1337 – 1573). The beans represent vitality and are thought to symbolically purify the home by driving away evil spirits that bring misfortune and bad health. As Japanese people like to play with words, there is also a secret meaning to bean throwing: the

pronunciation of the word beans (mame,beans)is similar to the word for demon eyes throwing beans, therefore, has a similar sound to destroying demons mametsu. Setsubun is widely celebrated across Japan and is one of the favorite traditions of all Japanese children. It’s a day full of bean-throwing, bean-eating and efforts to scare evil away to welcome good fortune. The custom of mamemaki first appeared in the Muromachi period.

It is usually performed by the toshiotoko of the household (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 "fortune beans" (fuku mame) are thrown either out the door or at a member of the family wearing an Oni (demon or ogre) mask, while the people say "Demons out Luck in" (Oni wa soto! Fuku wa uchi!) and slam the door.

This is still common practice in households but many people will attend a shrine or temple's spring festival where this is done. The beans are thought to symbolically purify the home by driving away the evil spirits that bring misfortune and bad health with them.



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