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Drive Away Evil Spirits by Throwing Soybeans on Setsubun



2022.02.03 (Thu)

By Charlotte, long-term Tokyo resident & history-loving traveler

Since it is February 3rd, today is “Setsubun” in Japan. The name Setsubun used to take on its literal meaning of a division between seasons, but it now refers specifically to the end of winter and start of spring. In Japan, there is a ritual in which roasted soybeans are thrown on Setsubun to drive away evil spirits, which are said to have a tendency to appear during the transition between seasons.

Among families, it is common practice for somebody in the household to wear the mask of a Japanese ogre called ‘oni’ so that the rest of the family can throw roasted soybeans at the person playing the role of the ‘oni.’ There are other rituals in addition to throwing roasted soybeans, as people also eat their age in roasted soybeans and eat a type of sushi roll called ‘ehomaki.’ ‘Eho’ refers to the direction that is said to bring good luck through a god who protects people.

Additionally, rituals and events related to Setsubun are held every year in temples and shrines across Japan. Lively scenes of the soybean-throwing ritual can also be seen in Taito City at Torikoe Shrine and Sensoji Temple. You can even see the Dance of the Seven Lucky Gods at Sensoji Temple. Although the soybean-throwing ritual will not be held at Torikoe Shrine or Sensoji Temple this year because of COVID-19, roasted soybeans to be thrown at home are available for purchase at Torikoe Shrine. Would you also like to throw roasted soybeans today to get ready to welcome in the spring?

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