Why People Throw Beans On Setsubun
Good afternoon, everyone! Just yesterday, it was Setsubun no Hi (節分の日), the traditional last day of winter in Japan!
So, what is Setsubun no Hi? Simply put, it is much like the Chinese Lunar New Year – it is a day where one cleanses away all the evil of the previous year and drives away bad luck for the year to come. Traditionally, this is done through a special ritual called mamemaki.
The practice of mamemaki, which literally means “bean scattering”, dates back to the early 14th century. Traditionally performed by the male head of the household, roasted soybeans are thrown either out the door or at a member of the family wearing an Oni (demon or ogre) mask. This is sometimes accompanied by the shouting of a special line to cast out the evil spirits and devils, though the words vary in different prefectures.
Children, obviously, enjoy the ritual immensely – and who wouldn’t? If Mom or Dad is dressing up as Oni, it is a free pass to chase them around, screaming and throwing beans at them. In some schools, teachers might play the part of the Oni, and which child would not enjoy pelting a figure of authority with food?
The beans are thought to purify the home by driving away the demons and spirits that carry bad luck and misfortune. It is also considered good luck to eat beans on this day, and people usually eat the same number of beans as their age. In some areas, they eat one more, in order to bring good luck and health for the year ahead.
Shrines and temples often throw large Spring festivals, where dozens of people gather for the mamemaki, sometimes jostling to catch the “lucky” beans thrown by priests, dignitaries or celebrities. The festivities in the shrines are much more elaborate, where they bring in famous celebrities and feature people in elaborate Oni costumes.
Additionally, some people eat ehomaki, literally “favorable direction roll”, a special sushi roll, while facing a certain auspicious direction that changes every year. In some areas, it is also traditional to make a wish while eating, and you are supposed to eat it without stopping or speaking. It may seem like an easy task, but the ehomaki is not as small as your usual, local sushi roll!
The whole allure of Setsubun no Hi, however, is the fact that it is socially acceptable – encouraged, even, to pelt people with beans. Can you imagine how much more fun Lunar New Year would be if we were throwing oranges instead of politely handing them over?
Okay, actually, that may not be a very good idea…
Anyway, here are some adorable, creative pictures from Japanese Twitter in celebration of Setsubun no Hi! I hope that everyone will have a great, lucky year ahead!