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Setsubun in Japan - Expeling Demons by Throwing Beans

Japan has a custom of bean throwing on Setsubun Day (the day before the calendrical beginning of spring) to drive out evil spirits. It is a kind of family event that kids love.

Today we are going to tell you about Setsubun in Japan.

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What is Setsubun?

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Setsubun is the day before each season. Japan has 4 seasons and the day before each season used to be called “Setsubun Day”, and among those, the day before the beginning of spring is only celebrated as “Setsubun” by throwing beans now.

On Setsubun Day, people expel demons by throwing beans. This originates from a traditional ritual called “Tsuina”, in which demons were expelled to wipe out problems or disasters and to bring good luck or happiness. While Tsuina was conducted on the New Year’s Eve, Setsubun is conducted on the day before the beginning of spring, and both are events to wish happiness for New Year.

How to Throw Beans

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People throw beans to someone playing a role of demon and drive him/her away from home. For these beans, roasted soybeans were commonly used after offered in front of God altar. Technically speaking, it is an official style using grains, which is the symbol of abundant harvest; however, substitutes are often used today such as unshelled peanuts, pea and bean snacks.

According to the convention, it should be those who really needs to repel evil spirits that throw beans – men or women of the year according to the Chinese zodiac, or men or women of the year of misfortune, etc. However, today everyone celebrates Setsubun as a family event.

First, it is decided who is going to play a role of demon. He/she will wear a mask of demon and wait at an entrance. When they come in the house, the other people shout “Oniwasoto, Fukuwauchi” (means “Bad luck out, Good Luck in”), and throw beans to the demon. The battle will be more exciting if the demon tries to stay longer. People can only through beans, not pull the demon out or push. It should be fun if you enjoy it like a game.

Demon expel is successful if the demon gets outside the house to go away. The person who played the demon will then be happily invited and welcomed as a god bringing good luck.

After this, the family eat beans used for throwing together. Traditionally, you should eat the same number of beans as your age. However, if it is too many to eat, have “lucky tea” (salted dried kelp, salted plum and 3 beans in hot water) instead.

Ehomaki Sushi Roll Eaten on Setsubun

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People believe it will bring good luck if you eat Ehomaki Sushi Roll at night on Setsubun. This custom reportedly started from the Kansai Region in the late Edo Period, but now Ehomaki Sushi Roll is eaten throughout Japan on Setsubun.

Ehomaki Sushi Roll is a thick roll that consists of vinegared rice, sweetly shimmered shiitake mushroom, cucumber, Tamagoyaki omelette, eel, etc. Eating the whole roll without cutting is very important and believed to bring good luck.

This traditional Japanese event is very exciting and fun. Let’s give it a try to experience a Japanese culture.

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