Setsubun Day in Tokyo

Setsubun is the day before spring per the Japanese lunar calendar.  This year it took place on February 3.  I went to the Senso-ji Temple in Asakusa to watch the Mame make ceremony. 

Setsubun is a day of ceremonial bean throwing.  Seriously.  It started with a parade led by priests and ministers followed by toshioko and toshionna or people born in the year of the rabbit.

Then a ceremony reciting a sutra and finally the bean ceremony.   The bean ceremony includes filling small boxes with beans, and then a throwing of the beans while yelling “oni wa soto, fuku wa uchi!” or basically, “demons out good luck/happiness come in!”, according to my festival book.  Traditionally the idea what that the beans and yelling would drive away the demon of misfortune.  Then prosperity could enter one’s life.   

Dried soy-beans are the most common type of bean used for Setsubun.  There were so many bags of soy beans available in the stores I am certain there are many acres grown to support this holiday.  There is also a tradition of eating the number beans corresponding to your age – especially if you are 12, 24, 36, 48, 60 or even 72 years old.  All these were born in ox and this year’s festival is especially lucky for them.  If you are an rabbit, maybe you should eat some dried soy beans too. 

Apparently some people, especially children wear masks of either good fortune or demons.  Conceptually this is like “spring-cleaning” your home or New Year’s resolutions.  There are other ceremonies and performances through Japan, some featuring demons or

The temple is amazing, and I can’t wait to visit again when there are not so many people so I can see all of it.  There are also great stalls selling all kinds of things, and fascinating food stands to sample as well. 


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