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This is a Shinto and Buddhist celebration

Setsubun is the day before the beginning of spring in Japan.The name literally means "seasonal division", but usually the term refers to the spring Setsubun, properly called Risshun celebrated yearly on February 3 as part of the Spring Festival.  In its association with the Lunar New Year, spring Setsubun can be and was previously thought of as a sort of New Year's Eve, and so was accompanied by a special ritual to cleanse away all the evil of the former year and drive away disease-bringing evil spirits for the year to come. This special ritual is called mamemaki (literally "bean scattering").

At Buddhist temples and Shinto shrines all over the country, there are celebrations for Setsubun. Priests and invited guests will throw roasted soy beans (some wrapped in gold or silver foil), small envelopes with money, sweets, candies and other prizes. In some bigger shrines, celebrities and sumo wrestlers will be invited; these events are televised nationally. At Sensō-ji in the Asakusa neighborhood of Tokyo, crowds of nearly 100,000 people attend the annual festivities.

It is customary in Kansai area to eat uncut makizushi called ehō-maki, a type of futomaki, in silence on Setsubun whilst facing the year's lucky compass direction, determined by the zodiac symbol of that year.  Charts are published and occasionally packaged with uncut makizushi during February. Some families put up small decorations of sardine heads and holly leaves on their house entrances so that bad spirits will not enter. Ginger sake is customarily drunk at Setsubun.


United Kingdom


Contact: Becky Lamyman
Categories: Religious festivals


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Last Updated: 10/01/2012