When it comes to Asian celebrations in February, most people think about Chinese New Year, which takes place on the 16th of the month this year. However, Japan has a great festival that also happens in early February and falls on Saturday 3rd this year. It’s called Setsubun, which translates as ‘change of seasons’ and is also known as the Bean Throwing Festival.
Setsubun is celebrated throughout Japan and is the eve of the first day of Spring, according to the old Japanese lunar calendar. It’s popular because it involves throwing roasted soybeans – make-mami – whilst chanting ‘in with fortune, out with evil’ – Oni wa soto! Fuku wa uchi! Centuries ago, these roasted beans were used to tell fortunes and their involvement in Setsubun developed over the years.
The ritual is one of purification and is believed to prevent malevolent spirits and ogres from entering the house. People fill up wooden containers with the roasted beans and throw them out of windows and around the house. Someone wears a devil mask and people banish them from the house by throwing beans at them. They then remove the mask and come back into the house to enjoy the rest of the festivities.
You are also supposed to eat the amount of beans that correspond to your age to ensure good health and fortune is yours over the coming year.
Events take place across Japan on Setsubun with celebrities and politicians taking part. There is even an extreme bean-throwing festival where people are pelted by thousands of beans being propelled at them by huge audiences.
A popular myth has it that if a person eats a giant sushi roll on Setsubun whilst facing that year’s lucky direction (this year it’s south, south east), their dreams will come true. Known as “Ehoumaki,” the sushi roll is eaten to symbolize good fortune being rolled into one and features seven fillings to represent the seven deities of good fortune. The roll is not sliced to ensure good relations are not cut off during the forthcoming year.
Why not try it at home – whilst chucking handfuls of dried beans around the house may not make you popular, you can quite easily make a giant sushi roll using our delicious ingredients.