February – Bean Throwing Ceremony

The Japanese celebrate Setsubun, also known as Onioishiki, on Feb. 3. Americans refer to this ceremony as the bean-throwing ceremony. This ceremony is practiced in Japanese homes to drive away evil demons. Each family places a small holly branch and the head of a dried sardine at the entrance of the house. In the evening, the windows of the house are opened to allow devils to escape, and each member of the family throws a few roasted soybeans into each room and out the open windows of the house while chanting “Oni wa soto, fuku wa uchi” or “out with the demons, in with good luck!” It is customary to eat one bean for each year of your life, plus one for the coming year. The ceremony is called mamemaki. The next day the beans are swept up and thrown away. If you wish to perform your own mamemaki, you can purchase the cooked soybeans from many locations at the time of the year, including Seiyu. Say, “daizu o kudasai”, or “please give me setsubun beans”.

Today this ceremony is also performed at some Shinto shrines and Buddhist temples, where large crowds gather to watch Japanese celebrities throw the beans. If you are lucky enough to catch one of the beans, you gain good fortune for the year. One of the best nearby places to observe setsubun is Takahata Fudo in Hino City.

Barbara Kirkwood

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