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setsubun festival, setsubun 2018
Setsubun 節分 is the day before the beginning of spring in Japan12 The name literally means "seasonal division", but usually the term refers to the spring Setsubun, properly called Risshun 立春 celebrated yearly on February 3 as part of the Spring Festival 春祭, haru matsuri3 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 豆撒き, literally "bean scattering" Setsubun has its origins in tsuina 追儺, a Chinese custom introduced to Japan in the eighth century2


  • 1 Mamemaki
  • 2 Other practices
  • 3 Historical practices
  • 4 Regional variations
  • 5 See also
  • 6 References
  • 7 External links


The custom of mamemaki first appeared in the Muromachi period2 It is usually performed by the toshiotoko 年男 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" 福豆, 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!" 鬼は外! 福は内!, Oni wa soto! Fuku wa uchi! and slam the door4 This is still common practice in households but many people will attend a shrine or temple's spring festival where this is done5:120 The beans are thought to symbolically purify the home by driving away the evil spirits that bring misfortune and bad health with them Then, as part of bringing luck in, it is customary to eat roasted soybeans, one for each year of one's life, and in some areas, one for each year of one's life plus one more for bringing good luck for the year to come6

The gestures of mamemaki look similar to the Western custom of throwing rice at newly married couples after a wedding2

Other practicesedit

Sardine head talisman on house entrance to keep bad spirits away

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 In some bigger shrines, even celebrities and sumo wrestlers will be invited; these events are televised nationally7 At Sensō-ji in the Asakusa neighborhood of Tokyo, crowds of nearly 100,000 people attend the annual festivities8

It is customary in Kansai area to eat uncut makizushi called ehō-maki 恵方巻, lit "lucky direction roll", a type of futomaki 太巻, "thick, large or fat rolls", in silence on Setsubun while facing the year's lucky compass direction, determined by the zodiac symbol of that year9 This custom started in Osaka, but in recent years eho-maki can be purchased at stores in the Kanto area and it is getting more recognized as a part of Setsubun tradition Charts are published and occasionally packaged with uncut makizushi during Februarycitation needed Some families put up small decorations of sardine heads and holly leaves 柊鰯 hiragi iwashi on their house entrances so that bad spirits will not enter Ginger sake 生姜酒, shōgazake is customarily drunk at Setsubun5:120

Historical practicesedit

The new year was felt to be a time when the spirit world became close to the physical world, thus the need to perform mamemaki to drive away any wandering spirits that might happen too close to one's home Other customs during this time included religious dance, festivals, and bringing tools inside the house that might normally be left outside, to prevent the spirits from harming them5:120

Because Setsubun was also considered to be apart from normal time, people might also practice role reversal Such customs included young girls doing their hair in the styles of older women and vice versa, wearing disguises, and cross-dressing This custom is still practiced among geisha and their clients when entertaining on Setsubun5:120–121

Traveling entertainers 旅芸人, tabi geinin, who were normally shunned during the year because they were considered vagrants, were welcomed on Setsubun to perform morality plays Their vagrancy worked to their advantage in these cases because they could take the spirits with them5:121

Regional variationsedit

While the practice of eating makizushi on Setsubun is historically only associated with the Kansai area of Japan, the practice has become popular nationwide due largely to marketing efforts by grocery and convenience stores10

In the Tohoku area of Japan, the head of the household traditionally the father would take roasted beans in his hand, pray at the family shrine, and then toss the sanctified beans out the door

Peanuts either raw or coated in a sweet, crunchy batter are sometimes used in place of soybeans11

There are many variations on the famous Oni wa soto, fuku wa uchi chant For example, in the city of Aizuwakamatsu, people chant "鬼の目玉ぶっつぶせ!" Oni no medama buttsubuse!, lit "Smash the demons' eyeballs!"

See alsoedit

  • Japan portal
  • Holidays of Japan
  • Ehōmaki, a sushi roll often eaten for good luck on setsubun
  • Taoism in Japan
  • Risshun 立春
  • Rikka 立夏
  • Risshū 立秋
  • Rittō 立冬
  • Feast of the Lemures a similar Roman custom
  • Zvončari the custom dating to pagan times in Croatia whose goal is to scare away evil spirits of winter and to stir up new spring-time cycle
  • Exorcism


  1. ^ Thacker, Brian 2005 The Naked Man Festival: And Other Excuses to Fly Around the World Allen & Unwin p 61 ISBN 1-74114-399-3 
  2. ^ a b c d Sosnoski, Daniel 1996 Introduction to Japanese culture Tuttle Publishing p 9 ISBN 0-8048-2056-2 
  3. ^ "Religions – Shinto: Haru Matsuri Spring festivals" BBC Retrieved March 10, 2014 
  4. ^ Craig, Timothy J 2000 Japan pop!: inside the world of Japanese popular culture ME Sharpe p 194 ISBN 0-7656-0561-9 
  5. ^ a b c d e Dalby, Liza Crihfield 1983 Geisha University of California Press ISBN 0-520-04742-7 
  6. ^ Karl, Jason 2007 An Illustrated History of the Haunted World New Holland Publishers p 62 ISBN 1-84537-687-0 
  7. ^ Mishima, Shizuko "Setsubun – Bean Throwing Festival" Aboutcom Retrieved February 1, 2011 
  8. ^ "Setsubun Is Right Around the Corner" Japan Travel Bureau January 29, 2014 Retrieved February 2, 2014 
  9. ^ "Setsubun – Around February 3" Massachusetts Institute of Technology March 5, 2002 Retrieved February 2, 2014 
  10. ^ Lapointe, Rick February 3, 2002 "Are you ready to roll with the change on 'setsubun no hi'" The Japan Times Retrieved February 2, 2014 
  11. ^ "Setsubun 節分" Japan Reference Retrieved February 2, 2014 

External linksedit

  • Japan-guide – Setsubun
  • Bean scatterer calculator
  • Japanlinked – Setsubun
  • Setsubun Bean Throwing Festival
  • Miscellaneous Notes on Setsubun in Japanese

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