Setsubun, Beans, Masks and Sushi

Setsubun, Beans, Masks and Sushi!

The word “Setsubun” literally means ‘seasonal division’ and is celebrated throughout Japan. Because it is celebrated on the day before the first day of spring (according to the Japanese lunar calendar) the holiday bounces between February 2, 3, and 4. It is not the type of holiday that will close banks, schools, or other places of business, but it is a holiday that is marked with a number of fun traditions and customs. For 2023, Setsubun will fall on February 3

One of the most popular rituals of Setsubun is the mamemaki, or bean-throwing ceremony. Participants throw roasted soybeans outside the house and at each other to symbolize the expulsion of evil spirits and the invitation of good luck and fortune into the home. The beans are also believed to have purifying properties, helping to cleanse the home of any negative energy. This ritual is performed by the head of the household, who throws the beans while shouting, “Oni wa soto, fuku wa uchi”– meaning “Evil out, good in”

Another key component of Setsubun is the use of masks and costumes. Participants will often dress up as demons or oni, with some even using masks and costumes to recreate the mamemaki ceremony in public spaces. Pre-school teachers, parents, grandparents, and neighbors may also put on the mask and pretend to be a demon while playfully chasing children and getting pummeled with beans. This is a way for people to get into the spirit of the festival and to have some fun.

In addition to the bean-throwing ceremony and mask-wearing, Setsubun is also associated with a variety of foods. One of the most traditional dishes is ehomaki, fillings may vary, but you’ll often find some combination of kanpyō (dried gourd), egg, eel, and shiitake mushrooms. The thick sushi roll that is typically eaten in silence while facing the year's lucky direction. This tradition is believed to bring good fortune and success to those who participate.

Setsubun is also a time for families to come together and share in the festivities. Many families will hold feasts or gatherings to mark the occasion, and children are often given treats and small gifts as a way of wishing them good luck in the coming year.

In recent years, Setsubun has become increasingly popular in Japan, with many communities and organizations hosting public events and celebrations. These events often feature live music and dance performances, food stalls selling traditional dishes, and opportunities for people to participate in the mamemaki ceremony.

Despite its popularity, Setsubun is still very much rooted in tradition and has a strong cultural significance for the people of Japan. It serves as a reminder of the changing seasons and the need to prepare for the future, as well as a time to come together with friends and family to celebrate the arrival of spring.

Overall, Setsubun is a unique and fascinating festival that is steeped in history and tradition. Whether you are a resident of Japan or simply interested in learning more about the country's culture and customs, Setsubun is definitely worth exploring.

In conclusion, Setsubun is a vibrant and meaningful festival that has been celebrated in Japan for centuries. With its bean-throwing ceremony, mask-wearing, traditional foods, and communal gatherings, it is a celebration of the end of winter and the arrival of spring, as well as a time to come together with friends and family to welcome good luck and fortune into the home.


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