Culture

3 Steps to a Successful Setsubun (Bean Throwing Day)

Happy “Bean Throwing Day“!

“Demons out, Good Fortune in!” – that’s today’s motto as it’s “Setsubun” (節分) today (February 3rd). It’s one of my favorite days of the year, so I thought I’d share it with you and tell you some more about it.

Setsubun Bean Throwing Day in Japan
Well, what do you do on “Bean Throwing Day”?
Yeah, right! Obviously!
But … why, how, huh??!!

 

Step 1: Good fortune comes to those who’re eating in silence

It already starts with one of my favorite things: eating!
Only on February 3rd you’ll find uncut makizushi (ehomaki, 恵方巻き) in the supermarkets.
You’re supposed to eat it while remaining completely silent.
The most important thing is to face the “lucky direction” (恵方) of the year!
This changes every year depending on the current zodiac.
2017, the year of the chicken, the direction was north-north-west (北北西).
2018, the year of the dog, the direction is south-south-east (南南東).

You’ll have to eat your sushi roll while facing that direction.

Quite strict rules? Yes, but that’s why it’s fun!

I often eat it during work, so my co-workers try to disturb me so that I’ll talk before finishing my sushi roll! *g*

Setsubun Bean Throwing Day in Japan Setsubun Bean Throwing Day in Japan

 

Step 2: Kicking demons out of your house by … throwing beans?!

This is the best part of it!!
“Setsubun” means that it’s splitting the seasons. Spring is about to come. So it’s time to clean your house.
No, not what you might think! Clean it from all the evil spirits and demons.

So, what you do is you throw beans. However, it can’t be just any beans!
It must be the super mighty “fortune beans” (福豆, fukumame) which are just … plain roasted soybeans, but whatever!

You don’t just throw them randomly, but usually a family member will wear a paper demon mask (which you’ll get in the supermarket together with the super duper “fortune beans”).
The rest of the family will throw beans at the “demon” shouting “Oni wa soto, fuku wa uchi” (鬼は外、福は内) which just means something like “Evil out, fortune in!”
Of course the “defeated” demon will run away then.

Usually you perform that in any kind of building, not only your house.
So, we also do it at my workplace, however no demons for us.
You can also just throw beans out of the windows and doors while shouting “Evil / Demons out!” and throw some beans inside shouting “Fortune in!”
It’s a big, BIG mess which is why it’s so much fun!
I mean, when can you usually mess up your workplace like crazy without being punished, right?

Setsubun Bean Throwing Day in Japan

All the “Bean Throwing Day” beans were already sold out when I went to the supermarket around noon!

 

Step 3: Realize how old you already are!?

Hm, but what to do with all the leftover beans?
Don’t worry! Japan has found a solution for that as well!
You just EAT them!
As this is Japan we’re talking about, you probably have guessed it already.
You can’t just eat them, there’s a rule yet again!

And here’s where the fun stops … at least when you’re not so young anymore! :(
Why? Because you’re supposed to eat an amount of beans that equals your current age!
So, you sit there, counting the beans, realizing how old you are..
It’s even more frustrating when the younger co-workers around you can stop counting 10 beans earlier than you!

 

By the way, there are also various festivals at (bigger) temples and shrines on February 3rd.
Some might be accompanied by dances or taiko performances.
Traditionally there are festivals where priests or even celebrities (such as sumo wrestlers) throw beans, candies or even envelopes with money.

Nowadays “setsubun” is celebrated as part of the “spring festival”, but originally was thought of as “New Year’s Eve” where you have to get rid of the evil spirits of the previous year. This tradition has its origin in China and was brought to Japan in the 8th century.

 

Well then, how do you banish demons? Maybe by throwing candy?

14 Comments

    • I always thought it was funny when people (not only in Japan) dress up as monsters to scare away other monsters. It just doesn’t make much sense to me. :hihi:
      I bet the kids in your neighborhood were super cute! :luvit:

    • I learned today that it’s also quite common to eat “iwashi (鰯)” (sardines) on that day.
      I learn something new every day, too, despite being here for some years now and I enjoy sharing it with others!
      I’m glad you seemed to enjoy this post.
      Thanks for commenting! :thumbup:

  • kewl~ i would love to throw beans to a lot of oni (bad demon real people lol hahaha! ;P joke!) it is really interesting that they have these kinds of tradition. entertaining really, i wonder where they get the idea shinto maybe? I would love to study the beliefs of far eastern countries it really fascinates me on to how they come up with such and each has a significant meaning awesomnessss. the only thing i can remember here about throwing to (people errr haha) at something are coins :) we throw coins on the floor every new year’s eve for luck and money. we usually drive demons away by fireworks and noise. in weddings however, we throw umm add rice grains to the shower of petals for them to “stick together” as a couple.

    did you ever finish your sushi roll in peace and quiet? ^o^ challenging huh? hoping that you did! waves of good fortune for you this year!! :)

    demons out! *randomly throws beans around* this is fun. :shiawase:

    • Like mentioned in the post it’s originally a Chinese tradition, so it’s not Shinto!
      I’m sure you could find more about the original background if you google around a bit.
      I have the feeling that almost ALL traditions in Japan that were adapted from foreign countries suffered from modifications and sometimes have only little to do with the original one. :sweatdrop2:

      Yeah, I ate mine quietly yesterday. As it was my day off I was at home and so it wasn’t that challenging! *g*

      I hope you’ll have an awesome year full of happiness and good things as well! :heart:

  • I think it’s a fun festival! I love traditions like that. Even if you don’t really believe in this demon business, it;s all in good fun, I think. As long as I can pass on the bean eating [scared by the number I would need]…Lol

    • I’m glad I didn’t have to participate in the bean eating this year!! :hihi:
      It’s just a lot of fun because you can make a mess out of your house .. as long as you’re not the one who has to clean it up again! :sweatdrop2:

  • I only got to experience setsubun once, during my first year here in Japan but I didn’t know that you’re supposed to eat beans the same number as your age! I did eat the thrown beans but I didn’t count how many. :huh:
    And I didn’t eat anh ehomaki at all. Maybe I’ll try to do it next year?

    • I like the taste of the beans, but I hate to count how old I am! XD
      I love makizushi, so of course I’m a big fan of ehomaki!!
      I don’t know about other cities, but in mine they’re all around in the supermarkets on February 3rd, so it’s almost impossible NOT to know about it! Maybe you bought it and ate it without knowing what it is? ;P
      However, other food seems to be common as well (e.g. “iwashi” – sardines).

  • 「恵方巻き」と称されているお寿司は、間違いで、あれはただの「太巻き」です
    何故か東京のTV局が勝手に呼び始めたのです

    節分は年4回あり(立春・立冬・立夏・立秋の前日)、
    立春の前日は正月(年越し)なので、お祓いの厄よけで豆を撒きます
    もう、いい歳なので、年の数だけ豆を食べられません…大豆のは美味しくない

    多くの家では、お祝いにお寿司を食べます
    別に、巻いてなくても構いません(海苔屋の陰謀なので)

    そんなんで、1月から2月あたままで、正月気分です

    • コメントありがとうございます。

      そうでしょう!私も変だと思いました。「節分」は四回ありますね。
      詳しい説明してくれて、本当にありがとうございました。

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