Mar 112012
Yoshida setsubun

Setsubun being celebrated at the Yoshida shrine

In Japan, Setsubun is the day before the beginning of each season. The name literally means “division of season”. Usually the term refers to the Spring Setsubun, properly called Risshun, celebrated yearly on February 3rd (associated with the Lunar New Year).

Spring Setsubun is traditionally celebrated with the toshiotoko of the household (a male born on the corresponding animal year on the Chinese zodiac), or the male head of the household, throwing pan-heated soybeans out the door, while chanting “Oni wa soto! Fuku wa uchi!”, meaning “Demons out! Luck in!” — the beans are thought to symbolically purify the home and ward off evil. In the Heian era, a famous Buddhist monk was said to have driven away Oni (demons or evil spirits) by throwing beans.

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 for people to catch.

Some families put up hiiragi iwashi (holly sardine), small decorations made from cooked sardine heads (sometimes the whole fish) stuck onto holly branches. They are placed on the entrance to the home so that bad spirits may not enter.

A traditional food is Eho Maki, a sushi roll made with seven “lucky” ingredients.  Though sushi rolls are usually sliced into bite-sized pieces, these are not, as slicing indicates cutting off good fortune. The rolls are eaten in silence while facing the year’s lucky compass direction. Ginger sake is a customary drink during Setsubun.


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 March 11, 2012  Posted by at 4:45 pm Celebrations