Setsubun Traditions: Driving Away Demons, Embracing Good Fortune in Japan

The beginning of this month (Feb.3rd) was “Setsubun”.
Do you know what it is?

Originally, “Setsubun” was the day before the seasonal turning points of four seasons. The spring Setsubun (on Feb. 3rd) was considered the most important of them all.

Today, it has become a traditional event to drive away evil spirits by throwing beans, “Mamemaki”. 

Mamemaki is a bean-throwing ceremony where people shout “Oni wa soto, Fuku wa uchi” while scattering beans outside their windows or front doors.

It has long been believed that when God comes to visit, demons and other evil things come along with him.
Therefore, it is said that this ceremony was held to welcome only the gods and to drive out the evil ones.
The beans are roasted soybeans, and it is said that if you eat your age plus one after Mamemaki, you will live a healthy life for a year.
But I can’t eat that much anymore! 

There is another custom to invite good fortune by eating “ehoumaki” ( sushi roll, without cutting).

It is believed that if you eat up one ehomaki without speaking, facing the direction of good fortune, you will stay healthy for a whole year.

It started in Osaka from the Edo period to the Meiji period (1868-1912) and was eaten for business prosperity.

Eating a whole piece is meant to “keep the good fortune alive”
The ritual of eating without speaking is because “if you speak during the meal, the good fortune will escape”.

Since this day was the day before “Risshun” (立春), which is the first day of spring in the twenty-four seasonal divisions,
to ward off evil spirits, it was a good day to take a bath with some salt and sake.

In Japan, there are ancient customs that have been preserved throughout the year, and it is essential to cherish each seasonal event.

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