February is here, which means it’s Setsubun time! (this is Valentine’s month as well, but we’ll talk about that later…)
If you have been to a Japanese supermarket, you’ll probably have seen a section displaying paper demon masks and little bags full of beans and peanuts. These are all typical Setsubun goods.
Setsubun (節分) is celebrated every year on February 3rd. It’s associated with the Chinese New Year and literally means “seasonal division”. It’s said that is this time of the year when the bad spirits are closest to our world.
In order to protect ourselves, we have to throw beans at them (Mamemaki or 豆まき) while we scream “Devils out, good fortune in!! (鬼は外福は内)” The beans used are roasted soybeans (fukumame), which are very effective against bad spirits. Also, after throwing them, you will have to eat the exact number of beans as your age. This will bring you a year full of good health. Some people also believe that eating an extra bean will bring extra good fortune.
This is a household event, and most of the time the father will dress up as the oni and the children will throw the beans at him. We made our own version here at UNPLAN!!
You also can participate in this event at a lot of famous places. For example, at Senso-ji temple, Asakusa, more than 100.000 participants gather every year. Sometimes there are also competitions for prizes, so it is very interesting to attend.
Throwing beans, however, is not the only way to get good luck. In the Kansai region they eat ehomaki (“lucky direction roll”), which is thicker than other sushi rolls. You have to eat it without cutting it, since the nori symbolizes good luck. Besides, since the word EHO (恵方) means lucky direction, you have to face a lucky direction while eating it. Each year has its own direction, and this year it is north by northtwest. It’s also thought that you should eat the ehomaki in silence, without saying a word.
What do you think of setsubun? Would you like to throw beans at someone?