Oni wa soto! Fuku wa uchi!Out with the demon, in with the happiness!
What exactly is Setsubun? I genuinely had no idea until I got a message from Mila’s school saying they were celebrating. At first, I thought maybe it was Groundhog’s Day but Japanese style. I quickly came to realize it was much more exciting than a groundhog seeing its own shadow!
The annual Japanese festival, Setsubun, is celebrated the eve before the first day of Spring. Setsubun means the division of the seasons marking the end of Winter and the beginning of Spring. To observe this new beginning, children need to scare the demons out of their homes, and I will explain in just a bit how that happens. Traditionally, the Japanese believe that the spirit world is closest to our world on this day. As a result, it is believed that strange things can occur, such as demons appearing.
One of the fun activities of this festival, especially for the children, is the tradition of bean throwing as this is how to rid the demons. In homes across Japan, one parent puts on an oni (demon) mask and is standing toward the front of the house while the children throw roasted soybeans shouting, “Oni wa soto! Fuku wa uchi!” (“Out with the demon! In with the happiness”.) It is such a fitting quote given the times.
This year Mila got to participate in the festivities of Setsubun with her classmates and teachers at the local park, and their teachers wore cute demon masks. When she came home, we also threw kidney beans (bc I didn’t have any soybeans in the house) out our front door. And shortly after, since we live in an apartment, I vacuumed our kidney bean filled hallway!
- Eat the same number of beans as your age; this will ensure luck, health, and happiness the following year.
- Japanese Setsubun Festival fell on February 2nd for the first time since 1897, typically falls on February 3rd.
- At Sensō-ji in the Asakusa neighborhood of Tokyo, crowds of nearly 100,000 people attend the annual festivities of Setsubun.