Setsubun, Japanese Bean-Throwing Ceremony is February 3rd

Posted by on February 4, 2014 in Blog, Japanese Celebrations, Special Occasions | 1 comment

Setsubun Oni Demon Ogre Bebe_Love_OkazuIn Japan, Setsubun, marks the beginning of Spring and is celebrated annually on February 3rd. It coincides with the Lunar New Year and is characterized by a traditional bean throwing ceremony.

Setsubun Fuku Mame 2 Bebe_Love_Okazu

Above: Fuku Mame – Lucky Roasted Soy Beans

Setsubun is often celebrated as part of Haru Matsuri (Spring Festival) but growing-up in Los Angeles, it usually meant that my Mom would buy roasted soy beans and allow my brother and I to toss these out the front door past the front porch and onto our driveway and front yard. I almost forgot that we did this, but thankfully my (younger) brother (with better memory) remembered this and was quick to point out that I was right there beside him throwing soy beans out the door.

Setsubun Bean Throwing Ceremony Bebe_Love_Okazu

Above: Setsubun Display at a Local Japanese Supermarket

Throwing soy beans out the door?

What?

At first, it sounds almost ridiculous, and a bit too superstitious, but what I now remember the most about this, was that it was really fun throwing beans out the door. Seriously, what kid wouldn’t want to throw (edible) roasted beans, right?

Setsubun Oni Demon Mask Bebe_Love_Okazu

Oni (Demon/Ogre) Mask and Fuku Mame (Lucky Soy Beans) Gift Set
(Yes, this is what Bebe got but she didn’t care for the mask. It always scared me when I was younger as well.)

It turns out that Bebe found this ceremony equally as fun, and after throwing lucky beans (known as fuku mame in Japanese) out the front door of our home yesterday morning, she promptly asked me if she could throw more beans. I happily obliged. After all, who doesn’t want more good fortune coming into their home and (if any) demons forced out?

In Japan, some people traditionally believe that evil spirits rise with the changing of the seasons. Therefore, on February 3rd, with the changing of winter into spring, people open the doors of their home and throw roasted soy beans (known as mame maki in Japanese) out while shouting, “Oni wa soto (demons/ogres out) fuku wa uchi (fortune into our home)!” Usually, the oldest head male or head female of the home is responsible for mame maki (throwing the beans) but at my parents home we (the kids) broke tradition and always had this honor.

Setsubun Fuku Mame 3 Bebe_Love_Okazu

Despite Bebe’s improving Japanese language skills (thanks to Japanese school), she couldn’t quite get the ceremonial Japanese “shout-out” but I “chanted” on her behalf while she continued to happily throw roasted soy beans out the door. All the while she kept asking if the birdies would come and eat the soy beans. Probably. What bird wouldn’t want to eat some soy nuts, right?

This Setsubun, bean-throwing ceremony is believed to help purify the home and drive away evil spirits and bad health and welcome good health and good fortune.

After this ceremony, everyone eats the same number of soybeans as their age. Let’s just say, that at Bebe’s ripe-young age, it’s easy for her to consume her age in roasted soy beans. This Mama, on the other hand, not as easy….

Setsubun Fuku Mame Lucky Soy Beans Bebe_Love_Okazu

1 Comment

  1. avatar

    I totally forgot about this Japanese tradition. Thanks for posting this to remind me. I remember throwing these beans at Sunday service when I was younger. We always threw them in the house, so that we could eat them. Also, at the church, members who were born in that lunar new year went up and threw the beans and recited “Fuku wa Uchi!!” “Oni wa Soto!”.

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