According to the Japanese Lunar Calendar, ‘Setsubun’ (literally ‘seasonal division’ in English) is the day before the arrival of spring. It is celebrated on February 3rd usually as a part of the Spring Festival (Haru Matsuri) across Japan at all shrines and temples. It can be called Japanese New Year too. Celebrations take place with people performing different activities on the day with joy, welcoming the spring. The custom of throwing beans is seen as bringing good luck and harvest to the land. Let`s know more about this unique custom.
Beans in Japan are considered both healthy and lucky too. Mamemaki is the tradition of throwing roasted soybeans (fukumame) either outside of one’s door or on a member of the family wearing an Oni (ogre) mask, while chanting “Oni wa soto! Fuku wa uchi!” which translates to “Demons out! Good Luck In” and slam the door. It is an age-old tradition that started in the Muromachi period 500 to 600 years ago. Now, a lot of people visit shrines or temples to practice the tradition instead of their homes. The beans are believed to drive evil spirits away and bring good fortune to the family in Japan. It is similar to how rice throwing is treated as auspicious at Western weddings.
All major shrines and temples are quite crowded during Setsubun. Many TV channels broadcast the bean throwing live at events run by priests, celebrities, and invited guests. In Tokyo, Sensoji temple attracts more than one hundred thousand people to attend the festivities. They are all seen tossing beans and gifts and the event turns a little bit wild. Different types of delicacies such as ‘makizushi’ (long cylindrical sushi roll) and ‘shogazake’ (ginger sake) are consumed during Setsubun. People also consume the roasted beans for good fortune. Different dance performances given by geisha and cross-dressing plays are conducted during the event.
At Sensoji, unlike other places in Japan, people do not shout “demons out”; instead, they shout just “good luck in” because it is believed that there are no demons in front of Kannon (god of mercy), the main deity there. One of the famous rituals here is the ‘Fukuju-no-mai Dance’ (Seven Deities of Good Fortune Dance) in which different cultural figures and famous performers actively participate. After the dance, bean tossing is performed bringing everyone together with fun and a cultural aura.
For more information, one can visit a nearby shrine or temple. If you are interested in the event conducted at Sensoji temple in Tokyo, you can contact the Asakusa Tourist Association for further details.
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