Setsubun - Bean goes, Happiness comes

Among millions stories about Japanese culture, today in the occasion of the coming February bringing the warm and beautiful spring, we together recall and welcome one of the largest and most significant spring festival called Setsubun.

Setsubun dated in Japan from 15th century, contemporary with Chinese Ming Dynasty as a ritual of soybean throwing. The ritual has strongly survived over the rise and fall of history that demonstrates its beautiful sense in Japanese culture. Soybean is quite familiar with Japanese in general as a popular ingredient for many kinds of food like tofu, miso or soy sauce. Magically, this little chubby bean has a special meaning in traditional Japanese spirit going beyond culinary use, it has a evil soul inside. Do not misunderstand, it is just an emblem and Japanese consider the act of roasting soybean as wiping out evil already. Japanese always have a feeling that devils are wandering around and they will take a chance of season swifting to flood in houses. As you can see when Japanese decorate their houses to welcome New Year, they have some special things called Kodomatsu or Shimekazari to prevent bad spirits, and Setsubun is some sort of the ritual exclusively for Lunar New Year. That can explain why Setsubun is held annually on February 3rd as the coming moment of spring.

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The ritual of throwing soybean is called Mamemaki and traditionally taking place at home when a member of the family wearing a demon mask and the rest throwing soybeans at him while shouting Devils out, Happiness in!. After that, family’s members pick up the soybeans and eat one for each year of their ages. All of those rituals are believed to bring good luck and wipe out the demons. Deeply originating from Kansai area, the custom of eating sushi roll called Ehomaki at the end of Setsubun day has spread out all over Japan. Nowadays, Setsubun is organized at religious spots with various unique forms, being directly broadcast and attracting hundreds visitors to participate in. Let’s take a look at some typical shrines and temples around Kansai region to get the close view of their unique Setsubun festivals.

Kasuga Taisha shrine (Nara)

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Kasuga Taisha seems to have the most unique Setsubun ritual which will be held in the sparkling space of about 3000 lanterns. Candles are also lit up around the precinct together bringing the extremely tranquil atmosphere. Not only soybeans but also good luck amulets and small pictures of horse will be on sale early and when the dark falls, people can join in the Setsubun ritual in which beans are thrown out in the dazzling light.

Time: starting at 6:30 pm

Googgle map: Kasuga Taisha shrine

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