Quest For Japan Logo-Ver7

Setsubun – Driving Demons Out and Luck In

Date Published: Last Update:2015/05/22 Traditional Culture , ,

Japan is blessed to have four distinct seasons: spring, summer, autumn, and winter. The word setsubun (節分, seasonal division) referred to the days marking the change from one season to the next. So, originally there were four of them, but nowadays, only the day before the beginning of spring in the traditional Japanese calendar, called risshun (立春) is called by that name. Setsubun comes on either February 3 or 4, depending on the year.

Setsubun Origin

In its association with the Lunar New Year, 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 century.

Demons Out, Luck In!

On the night of Setsubun, many households do mamemaki – a bean-throwing ceremony. They fill a masu (マスa wooden measuring cup) with roasted soybeans and throw the beans all about the room, shouting “Oni wa soto! Fuku wa uchi!” (鬼は外、福は内) meaning “Out with the goblins and in with fortune!” They also open the windows, throw the beans outside, and slam the door. The beans are thought to symbolically purify the home by driving away the evil spirits that bring misfortune and bad health with them. Mamemaki is also performed to pray for the family’s well-being and good business. The custom of mamemaki first appeared in the Muromachi period. 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, read more about it here), or else the male head of the household.

roasted soybeans

Roasted soybeans. (Photo by asobi tsuchiya on Flickr)

After the mamemaki is over, everyone eats the same number of beans as their own age. It is believed that by doing so, people will be free of sickness during that year. In some areas in Japan, one for each year of one’s life plus one more for bringing good luck for the year to come.

Families with little children especially look forward to this day because mamemaki can be a lot of fun. One person acts as the goblin and runs around, while the others throw beans at the person. At some schools, the students make goblin masks and enjoy mamemaki.

setsubun

(Image from AC-Illust)

Setsubun Observance Variations

There are variations of the ritual in other areas of Japan. In Kansai region, people eat makizushi on setsubun. It is bow becoming popular nationwide due largely to marketing efforts by grocery and convenience stores. 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. Nowadays peanuts (either raw or coated in a sweet, crunchy batter) are sometimes used in place of soybeans. There are many variations on the famous Oni wa soto, fuku wa uchi chant. For example, in the city of Aizuwakamatsu, people chant “Oni no medama buttsubuse!” (鬼の目玉ぶっつぶせ, lit. “Smash the demons’ eyes!”).

makizushi

Homemade makizushi. (Photo by asobi tsuchiya on Flickr)

Thanks to the great fun of mamemaki, Setsubun is still a popular traditional event.

What are your thoughts about setsubun and mamemaki? Share it with us in the comments section below!

References:

1. Setsubun. Wikipedia.

2. Setsubun and Bean-Throwing. Web-Japan.

The following two tabs change content below.

Sponsored Links

  • Pocket
  • 1 follow us in feedly

Related Article/s:

Cascading water

Kyoto: Strolling around Kamogawa River and iconic Gion

After enjoying our morning hunt for momiji leaves (we enjoyed it so much that we did not realize that we have walked for more than two hours), we decided to take a short break before we continue our hunting trip. I know Kyoto is one of the best places to enjoy Japanese cuisine but we […]

Read Article

hinamatsuri

Hinamatsuri – A Festival of Dolls

Today, March 3, is Hinamatsuri (雛祭り) in Japan. Though hina (雛) literally means a young bird or a chick, the day is also called Doll’s Day or Girl’s Day. On this day, families with girls wish their daughters a successful and happy life. Families with young daughters mark this day by setting up a display […]

Read Article

Shiritori2

Kotoba Asobi : Shiritori – Learning the Japanese Style of Wordplay 3

In our last posts about kotoba asobi (Kotoba Asobi 1, Kotoba Asobi 2), we learned about kaibun and dajare. If the previous two types of Japanese wordplay are kind of serious, the next two types, though it needs deeper knowledge of Japanese vocabulary, are fun and can be played with two or more persons. This […]

Read Article

Shogi_osho

Shogi, The General’s Board Game – Shogi Pieces

Last time, we talked about the history and origin of the game shogi. In this post, we will learn the pieces use in shogi. The following two tabs change content below.BioLatest Posts harorudo Latest posts by harorudo (see all) Kaomoji: Expressing Emotions Through Text 2 – June 3, 2015 Kaomoji: Expressing Emotions Through Text – […]

Read Article

don!

Pyoon! Nyan! Pachi! – Learning the Japanese Onomatopoeia 1

Onomatopoeias are always present in any language in the world. The hiss of the snake, the clanking of the bells, the drizzling of the rain – the words in italics are just some of the onomatopoeias that can be found in an English dictionary. The Japanese language too is full of onomatopoeias. Some of them […]

Read Article

yomifuda

Karuta: Traditional Japanese Playing Cards – More Karuta Variations and Karuta in Popular Culture

In our previous post about the Japanese traditional card game karuta, we listed some of popular karuta variations. In this post, we will post more of these karuta variations and karuta in popular culture. The following two tabs change content below.BioLatest Posts harorudo Latest posts by harorudo (see all) Kaomoji: Expressing Emotions Through Text 2 – […]

Read Article

shogi pieces

Shogi, The General’s Board Game – History and Origin

In my last series of posts, we learned about the board game Go. Another popular Japanese board is the Shogi. It is also known as the Japanese chess or the General’s Game. In this series, we will learn its history, how to play it, and its influence to popular culture. Origin of “Shogi” The word […]

Read Article

karuta

Karuta: Traditional Japanese Playing Cards – Variations

Mastering karuta requires a combination of quick reflexes and memorization. And for the Japanese language learner, karuta also offers the perfect blend of procrastination and productivity, a way to work and play at same time. The following two tabs change content below.BioLatest Posts harorudo Latest posts by harorudo (see all) Kaomoji: Expressing Emotions Through Text […]

Read Article

Kendo

Kendo, The Way of The Sword – Kendo Grades

Just like other martial arts, practitioners also are ranked by kendo grades. The following two tabs change content below.BioLatest Posts harorudo Latest posts by harorudo (see all) Kaomoji: Expressing Emotions Through Text 2 – June 3, 2015 Kaomoji: Expressing Emotions Through Text – June 1, 2015 The Nomikai – Bonding Through Drinking – May 28, […]

Read Article

eating utensils

Chopsticks in the Japanese Way: History and Etiquette

Lohb’s photo in Flickr Can you eat using your bare hands? Or you need spoon and fork? Or perhaps a knife? Well for me, sometimes I do prefer eating using my hands and I am lucky there is no issue with it in our country. We used to eat using spoon and fork but oftentimes […]

Read Article

Sponsored Links

Leave a Reply

Sponsored Links

  • Google+
    InstagramInstagram
PAGE TOP ↑