Throw beans! “Setsubun” is Japanese February festival!

The Japanese throwing beans festivalHello! I’m Mishi! Today, I want to talk about February in Japan. What do you think about February? Maybe, most people would think about Valentine’s day but Japan is different. There is a traditional day they have and probably, little kids don’t want this day to come. This day is called “Setsubun(節分)”. This day is also known as the Japanese bean-throwing festival. You see the picture above and it’s already interesting, right?

Do you know what this day is? Do you want to know why many little kids don’t want to deal with this day? Now, you got many questions. It’s time to see what it is.

Let’s get going! (^(エ)^)




What’s Setsubun(Division of seasons)?


The reason why Japanese throw beansAround February 3rd, the day before the beginning of spring is called Setsubun. The date of Setsubun is decided by the date of the beginning of spring. So sometimes, Setsubun is February 2nd or 4th. In Japan, there are 24 divisions of the solar year and you can’t divide 365 days by 24 so the date of Setsubun is not always the same date.

While changing of a season, Japanese used to say that devil’s spirits occur to fall on you, to turn that down, when the sun goes down, they throw beans and eat beans as the number of your age to wish for your good health. Modern day people will role play as the devil as wearing Oni mask. Oni is Japanese notorious Yokai. It looks like a human but on their head, there are two horns.

On Setsubun, adult wears Oni mask to role play Oni for people especially kids and kids throw beans at Oni. While throwing beans, you are supposed to say “Oni wa soto, Fuku wa uchi!” That sentence means “Oni out! Come in fortune!” When you say “Oni wa soto”, you throw beans toward the outside and when you say “Fuku wa uchi”, you throw beans toward the inside of your house.

This day is like a family day. Usually, father role plays as Oni and mother help kids to make Oni get out of the house with throwing beans.

After finish throwing beans, you are supposed to eat beans as the same amount of your age.(Some people eat beans as the same amount of their age + 1. This means to remove troubles for next year.)


History of Setsubun


It’s said that the event of “Tsuina(追儺)” is a beginning of throwing beans. Tsuina came from China and Chinese people used to make bow arrow out of peach trees to remove evil spirits. Japanese took this custom in the Heian period and this custom became an imperial court’s event. They made bows out of peach trees and arrows were made of reek trees.

But after a while, they started to use beans instead of bow arrow because they can throw them widely and beans were known as a survival power. After a while, this way spread to the common people through the time.


Why is it bean to throw?


Beans for SetsubunThere are some opinions for this. Let’s check them out!

1: It’s said that rice and bean can get rid of evil spirits from ancient time. So, this is the first opinion.

2: Bean is Mame(豆) in Japanese. Mame can be expressed as Ma Me(魔目). This means “evil’s eye” in English. The word of Ma is evil(魔) in English and Me can be translated into destruction(滅). This is how beans are started to use.

3: The reason why this started is back a long time ago, Heian period(this period started from 794 AC) Oni came from Kuramayama(Kurama mountain) in Kyoto, it is said that the Oni were messing around places. To chase away Oni,  they used beans which were roasted to throw at Oni.

If you go to Japan on this day, there are many places like shrine and temples, they scatter beans from the stage, sometimes they put a prize in the bag of beans and people get a reward!




Sardine and holly


Sardine and holly for SetsubunProbably, you want to say what?? (;・∀・) I know how you feel but there is something to do with sardine and holly on this day. It’s said that something which is stinky or pointed is good to remove evil spirits from a long time ago in Japan. So, some Japanese put the grilled sardine’s head and holly(holly’s leafs are pointed) at the entrance of their house. It’s said that this way can chase Oni away. This custom is called “Yaikagashi(焼嗅)” or “Hiragi Iwashi(柊鰯)”. It’s rare to see it nowadays but there are still some people do this way. Some people also put them in their house.


Trivia for Oni


Oni for throwing beans festival in JapanOni is a symbol of evil spirits. The word of Oni(鬼) derived from the word of On(陰). On means the presence of evil spirits and something that we can’t see. It’s also said that the word of Oni came from the word of “Onnin(隠人)”. Onnin is something that always hides and looks scary. Japanese used to think that something that we can’t see, for example, disaster, sick, and so on is caused by Oni. That’s why Oni is feared by Japanese people.

The Japanese throwing bean festival OniBy the way, I always thought that Oni wears leopard print pants. But that is not leopard print pants. It’s tiger print pants and this has a reason. It’s said that the direction of the place where Oni lives in is called”Kimon(鬼門)”. Kimon is between the ox and the tiger symbols on the Stems-and-Branches table. That’s why Oni has the horn which is from an ox and the fang which is from a tiger. Talking about the pants, this is how Oni wears the tiger print pants. ヾ(´^ω^)ノ♪


Food for Setsubun


On this day, Japanese also have one more thing to do. That is to eat Japanese traditional food. Let’s see what kind of food they eat!



Setsubun food(Ehomaki)They eat Ehomaki(Fortune Sushi Roll), unfortunately, it is not sure when this custom started! Anyway, this has a unique way to eat. Ehomaki is made of 7 kinds of ingredients inside of the roll. Why is it 7? The meaning is from the 7 gods. This means roll with good luck!

The 7 ingredients you use don’t matter. You can put whatever you want to put inside of the roll. The way you eat Ehomaki has a rule.

  1. You have to face the lucky direction of the year, every year’s direction will be changed so you have to face different direction every year!
  2. Eat the whole Ehomaki without resting! This means don’t cut good luck!
  3. You shouldn’t talk till you finish eating! It says if you talk, good luck will be going away from you!

What an interesting way to eat! One day I want to try that too!




How was it? You see the reason why some kids don’t want it to come. I’m sure it is too scary to face Oni but this day is to remove evil spirits so they will get a clue of this event someday. The Japanese throwing beans festival is fun and family time nowadays. You should try it if you’re interested in it.


If you’re interested in Japanese March, here is the post!



Ja——-ne——- |・∀・*)ノ




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