Setsubun takes place on February 3rd this year. Although it is still cold, this traditional event marks the end of winter and the coming of spring. Setsubun is celebrated at temples and shrines everywhere in Japan as well as in people’s homes.
In Tokyo’s Taito area, Sentsubun celebrations take place at several places including Shitaya Shrine near Ueno Station and Senso-ji Temple in Asakusa. Setsubun is known for a bean tossing ritual called Mame-maki. Senso-ji Temple is the oldest temple in Tokyo and it is said that it was here that this kind of Setsubun celebration took place for the first time for many common people to attend.
At their homes, people throw roasted soybeans out of their front door or at someone dressed up as an Oni demon. This is said to drive away evil and invite in good luck. While throwing the beans people shout “fuku wa uchi, oni wa soto” meaning “good fortune inside, oni demons outside”. At supermarkets and convenience stores you can see packs of beans and Oni demon masks being sold for this now.
Another Setsubun tradition is eating Eho-maki sushi rolls. You can buy the thick makizushi rolls at department stores, supermarkets, and convenience stores. For good luck this year, eat the whole sushi roll in the evening of Setsubun. Turn towards east-northeast, the lucky direction for this year, do not speak while you eat, and make a wish.
Setsubun at Senso-ji Temple
Setsubun celebrations here start with the small children of Senso-ji Kindergarten parading through Nakamise Street towards the Main Hall. They get to throw beans at red and blue oni demons carrying big clubs. It is cheerful and fun.
For the main bean tossing ceremony the temple invites celebrities such as comedians, actors, and athletes. They toss the beans together from a platform at the Main Hall of the temple. Come and catch some of the roasted soybeans. They are tasty snacks.
Senso-ji Temple’s Setsubun celebrations also include the auspicious Dance of the Seven Lucky Gods called Fukuju-no-mai. The Seven Lucky Gods of Japan, or Shichifukujin in Japanese, are Ebisu, Benzaiten, Bishamonten, Daikokuten, Fukurokuju, Hotei, and Jurojin. To receive good luck from all the Shichifukujin you would usually have to do a Shichifukujin Megumi, a small “pilgrimage” to each of the local shrines and temples where the deities are enshrined. But on Setsubun, you can see them all together here at Senso-ji Temple bringing good fortune.
The dance will be performed at 14:30 on a platform off the Main Hall. Then from 16:00 the bean tossing ceremony will take place four times ending at 17:15.