The Last Day of Winter
– Setsubun [節分]

Setsubun [節分], the seasonal division between winter and spring is being celebrated annually on February 3rd. It is the day before the first day of spring (Risshun) [立春] in the ancient Japanese lunar calendar.

The Bean Throwing Ceremony – Mamemaki [豆まき]

The Mamemaki custom – throwing roasted soy beans is an important part of Setsubun. There is a large number of regional variations of this custom, but the most common way is driving away evil spirits and bringing in good luck by throwing beans.

This Mamemaki ritual is held at schools, home, shrines on the day of Setsubun. It is a fun ritual for children.
Participants throw beans either towards the door, or at the “devil” (Oni [鬼]). In households often the father takes on the role of “devil”, wearing special costume. The rest of the family then throws beans shouting “Oni wa soto! Fuku wa uchi!” [鬼は外!福は内!], which can be translated as Demons out! Good Fortune in!

The roasted soy beans prepared for Setsubun are called Fuku Mame [福豆]. Children usually eat the same number of beans as their age for good fortune. It is also customary to eat thick uncut type of sushi called Ehōmaki [恵方巻] while facing a specific direction, based on the current year’s Chinese zodiac sign. Other symbols of Setsubun are also thorny leaves/branches of Holly Osmanthus (Hiragi) [柊] and head of a sardine, both used to drive away bad spirits.

An ideal model of women – Ofuku san [お福さん]

Ofuku san is not only a Setsubun symbol but also a popular good luck charm.
She has a very characteristic face:

  • Big face to go out into the big world
  • Small mouth to omit needless words
  • Short nose not to be boastful