Setsubun (at a start of a new season)

Today, “Setsubun” means the day before Risshun (the first day of spring).
It is a day to expel bad things with the meaning of “I wish everyone a healthy and happy life.”

Setsubun came to be used only on the day before spring began, that is, the day when winter and spring are separated.

Originally, Setsubun is a seasonal event called “the day before the first day of spring, summer, autumn or winter” which occurs 4 times a year;

  • Risshun (First Day of Spring) – around February 3
  • Rikka (First Day of Summer) – around May 5
  • Risshu (First Day of Autumn) – around August 7
  • Ritto (First Day of Winter) – around November 7

Risshun in the new calendar (Gregorian calendar) corresponds to New Year’s Eve in the old lunar calendar, so Setsubun on Risshun has come to be considered important.

In the past, it was thought that evil spirits were likely to enter at the turning point of the seasons, especially the turning point of the year.
And various evil purification events were held. The familiar bean throwing ceremony is also an evil purification event to welcome the New Year.

Mamemaki – a Japanese bean-throwing event

Soybean is said to be the one in which the strongest spirit of grain resides among grains.
And roasted soybeans for throwing beans are called “Fukumame”.
Fukumame has been thought to drive away evil spirits.

*”fuku” means good luck, and “mame”is beans.

At home, if there is a household Shinto altar, we offer Fukumame first.

People open doors all over the house and throw beans inside and outside the house, chanting “Fuku wa uchi! Oni wa soto!” (In with fortune! Out with the demon!).
After throwing beans, close the door immediately so that demons won’t come in.

There is also a legend that if you eat as many Fukumame as your age, you won’t get sick this year.

Local bean-throwing events at shrines or temples are held as well as at each home.

Other customs

Evel and ogre are said not to like sardines and holly, so there is a custom to display them at the entrance, but they are decreasing now.

For the first time in 124 years since 1897, February 2 is the day of Setsubun in 2021.
This is because that the Earth does not circle the sun exactly for 365 days, but for a little less than 6 hours. As a result, the position of the earth shifts little by little every year.

Plum blossoms bloom around Risshun every year in my neighborhood, Yokohama.
They are still budding this year.

red ume plum blossoms
red ume plum buds
white ume plum blossoms
white ume plum buds