Setsubun is a Japanese festival that takes place on February 3rd every year, which is known as the “day before spring” according to the lunar calendar. It is the perfect time for cleansing rituals and other ceremonies relevant to “farewell” to the previous year and “renew/restart” with the new year.
Mame maki is a ceremony performed by the male who’s Chinese Zodiac sign matches the one for the upcoming year. If no one in the household matches that description, the task falls onto the head male of the household. The main aspect of this ceremony is to kick out the demons and let the luck come into the house. The family members throw roasted soybeans at the house’s door or at one of the members who wears an ogre mask, and chant for the demons to leave. It is still a very common practice but while some people will do it in the comfort of their own home, others will attend a similar ceremony at their local temple.
Once the ceremony completed. You can have some special food for that day. The ehomaki, a.k.a the lucky direction sushi rolls, is a type of sushi that is rolled into cooked egg rather than seaweed. It’s quite an unusual treat for those who are used to eating regular sushi. It also fills you up very quickly as the egg surrounding the sushi roll is a lot heavier than seaweed. You can easily find the recipe for this sushi online or you can get it at your local stores around the setsubun period.
Performing The Ceremony At Your House
To enjoy the celebration in your own house, you will need the roasted soybeans that you can find anywhere in the shops, especially at that time of the year. You will need small bowls or sauce dishes to carry the beans.
You will also need an ogre or demon mask called Oni-mask. One member of the family must wear the mask and everyone gather around and throw beans in the same fashion some people throw rice at weddings. While throwing the beans, it’s important to sing “demon out, fortune in” as to kick out the demon and let the luck come into the house. You can do it one more time altogether by aiming at the door with the beans and chanting for the demons to leave the house.
Setsubun At Your Local Temple
Photo Credit: Marufish@flickr
If you live or stay near a large temple, I would recommend spending part of your day there. Many parents bring their kids and the ceremony becomes very enjoyable. The kids are giving a small box with beans and performers dressed as demons come and dance in front of everyone. During the performance, the children throw the beans at the demons and chant for them to disappear.
Photo Credit: Marufish@flickr
In other temples, the heads of said temples throw beans at the crowd from an upper stage. There is something vibrant and a general festival atmosphere all day long. Now, let me just warn you of one thing, and if you’ve been to events in Japan, that won’t be a surprise. This is a very popular and very festive day and therefore, if you choose to visit temples, you will find huge crowds.
Photo Credit: osiristhe@flickr
Not all temples are equal on that matter but if you are in large cities and if the temples offer activity for kids and performances, chances are that you will have to make your way through hundreds of people. Don’t let that intimidate you though. Thanks to Japanese etiquette and the wealth of enjoyment that you can get out of these events, those are very much a must-do if you are in Japan on February 3rd.