3 Places To Enjoy Setsubun In Japan | CoolJapan

Oni wa soto! Fuku wa uchi!

“Demons out! Fortune in!”

If you are travelling to Japan in the first week of February, you are likely to hear this phrase being shouted at temples or even outside people’s homes. The yelling — accompanied by the throwing of roasted soybeans — is an integral part of setsubun, an annual festival that heralds the start of a new season. The day of setsubun (節分) in 2020 is on 3 February, the eve of risshun (立春) , the beginning of spring.

In the past, people believed that the changing of seasons could bring bad luck, which is why local communities devised a ceremony where they throw roasted soybeans at a person dressed as a demon while chanting, “Out with evil, in with good!” After successfully “banishing” the demons, Japanese families gather and eat the same number of beans as their age will bring about good fortune for the rest of the year.

Apart from the bean throwing ceremony, another part of setsubun involves eating a special sushi roll known as eho-maki. Made with seven fillings (to represent the Seven Deities of Good Fortune), this sushi roll is rolled up tight to “lock in” the elements of health, wealth and happiness.

Girl eating eho-maki for Setsubun in Japan

Have an eho-maki on the day of setsubun for good fortune.

There are two important things to remember when eating your eho-maki. First, do not cut the sushi roll as it could mean cutting away your good fortune. Second, as eho means “lucky direction”, you need to eat your sushi roll while facing the auspicious direction. This year, the lucky direction is west-southwest. With your eho-maki clasped in both your hands, face the lucky direction while contemplating the season past and wishing for a better season ahead.

Here are three spots in Japan to soak up the festivities:

Zojoji Temple, Tokyo

Located next to Tokyo Tower, this is where you’ll find one of the largest-scale setsubun festivals in the country. The ceremony is often graced by famous celebrities, politicians and sumo wrestlers.

Sensoji Temple, Asakusa

If you don’t mind travelling a bit further out of the city, visit this historic temple that is said to be the first to hold big setsubun celebrations for the public. As many as 100,000 people are said to show up for the revelry, with the dance of the Seven Lucky Deities a highlight event.

Yoshida Shrine, Kyoto

Thousands of people flock to this sacred site each year for setsubun. The festival is a raucous affair here, with hundreds of food stalls lining the street and a lively dance performance to exorcise all demons.

  1. 1.Zojoji Temple
  2. 2.Sensoji Temple
  3. 3.Yoshida Shrine
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