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Sunday, February 2, 2014

Setsubun - The Bean Throwing Festival

Monday, February 3rd is a non-national traditional Japanese holiday known as 'Setsubun', but you might have heard it as the so-called "Bean-Throwing Festival" that the folks perform by throwing soybeans to drive away the evil spirits... like in the Hokusai ukiyo-e drawing picture above.

I've actually participated in this festival, and I think it's kind of cool...

Celebrated on February 3rd - every February 3rd, regardless of the day of the week, it is associated with the old Lunar calendar for New Years Eve. Setsubun actually means "seasonal division".

In many Japanese households, the father or the oldest man in the house, or a male who was born in the same year as the zodiac animal of the Chinese New Year--in this case the Year of the Horse--throws handfuls of roasted soybeans out the door of the home... or better yet, at a person wearing an oni (demon) mask.

This symbolic is meant to represent the cleansing of all the evil from the past year and driving away any disease or bad luck and to bring in spirits in the coming year. A new broom sweeps clean.

Now, while the beans are being thrown, the family members yell out: “Oni wa soto, Fuku wa uchi! (Demons out, good fortune in!).”

As with damn near every Japanese tradition, food plays an important part - roasted soybeans as ammunition, notwithstanding - with ehou-maki, which translates to 'lucky-direction' hand-rolled sushi. Apparently one must eat an uncut sushi roll while facing the lucky direction of the year.

This lucky direction is different every year - and for 2014, based on the lunar calendar, it is EAST NORTHEAST. I have no idea what that means... is it northeast, but actually a bit more east than north? Is this why so few people actually achieve good luck? How about some frickin' real compass points?

Lucky direction of the year? Who comes up with this stuff?  

Another tradition involving food is that good fortune will come your way if YOU eat the same number of roasted soybeans as your age, so, for example, I would only need to eat 34 beans, because in my head I am 34-years-old and in the best shape of my life because I work out for two hours a night six days a week, have my wavy black locks half-way down my back, and am dating an exotic dancer - a French-Canadian real redhead who likes me because I don't judge her and can tickle her funny bone, if you know what I mean.

Thirty-four soybeans does seem like an awful lot to swallow, eh?

All I know is that I must have faced the wrong direction the year after that...

Lastly, Setsubun is also celebrated in Japanese temples and shrines... and here's a list of some of the temples holding Setsubun bean throwing events on February 3:
  • Naritasan Shinshoji Temple

  • Asakusa-dera Temple, 11:30AM - 1:30PM

  • Rinnou-ji Temple, 12 Noon - 2:45PM

  • Ikegami Honmon-ji, 1 - 3PM 

  • Hase-dera, 12 Noon
  • Zojo-ji, 12 Noon

  • Okunitama-jinja 2PM, 4PM , 6PM

  • Toyokawa Inari Betsui-in
  • Inuyama Naritasan

  • Mamasan Guhouji, 2PM
Cheers, and good luck,
Andrew Joseph

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