Setsubun – A Japanese Bean-throwing Festival – 節分!

Today is Setsubun!  Setsubun (節分) is a traditional Japanese festival that celebrates the end of winter and the start of Spring.  Setsu (説), meaning “season,” and bun (文), meaning “part/segment,” together make Setsubun, which translates to “seasonal division.”  Technically, it could really refer to any seasonal change but for some reason it only refers to the Winter to Spring “parts.”

It is still plenty cold in Japan though (in Aomori, February is the coldest and snowiest month) so it definitely doesn’t feel like Spring just yet.  But according to the Japanese lunar calendar, “Risshun” (立春) is the first day of spring and falls on February 3rd or 4th.

setsubun-oniOn this day, it is custom to throw roasted soybeans (fukumame (福豆) or “lucky beans”), signifying the warding off of evil spirits.  This is called “mamemaki” (豆まき).  You through the beans outside or at a demon/ogre (oni (鬼)) while chanting “Oni wa soto!  Fuku wa uchi!”「鬼は外!福は内!」This literally translates to “Demons out!  Good luck in!”

Also, according to tradition, once you throw them, you are supposed to go pick them up (many people throw shell peanuts instead of soybeans) and eat your age in beans.  This ensures you with a healthy year.

The second part of Setsubun is called blog-setsubun_04“ehoumaki” ((恵方巻) or “lucky direction (sushi) roll”).  The “ehou” is the lucky direction and every year there is a new lucky direction.  It is custom to silently eat the entire sushi roll facing the lucky direction.  It is also custom to eat the whole roll without cutting it into pieces in hopes that your relationships will not be cut off as well.

This year’s lucky direction is North-Northwest.  If you find yourself with some extra peanuts and an uncut roll of sushi laying around, point it NNW and let the good fortune roll on in.

Happy Setsubun!

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