Setsubun is a traditional Japanese holiday that takes place on the last day of winter and the day before the beginning of spring. This year, it is on Saturday, February 3, 2024. This holiday marks the end of winter and the arrival of spring, and it has been celebrated for centuries with a variety of customs and rituals.
The main tradition during Setsubun is mamemaki 豆撒き (bean throwing), which consists of throwing fukumame 福豆 (fortune beans) either out the front door or at someone wearing an oni 鬼 (demon) mask while shouting “Oni wa soto! 鬼は外! Fuku wa uchi! 福は内!” (Devils out! Fortune in!).
Roasted soybeans are not just used for throwing on Setsubun. As part of bringing luck in, it is customary to eat roasted soybeans, one for each year of one's life, plus one more for bringing good luck for the year.
Another tradition is eating uncut makizushi rolls known as ehōmaki 恵方巻き (lucky direction rolls) in silence while facing the year’s lucky compass direction. It is believed that eating a special sushi roll while facing a specific lucky direction can bring good fortune. This year, the direction is east northeast. The ehōmaki should be eaten in silence while facing the lucky direction, without speaking or cutting the roll.
Other traditions include hiiragi iwashi 柊鰯 (holly sardine) or impaling a sardine head on a holly branch and placing it at the entrance to a house to ward off evil spirits. Drinking shōgazake 生姜酒 (warm sake with grated ginger) is also customary.
Setsubun is a time of joy and celebration and a perfect opportunity for families to come together and celebrate the end of winter and the arrival of spring. Whether you participate in mamemaki, ehōmaki, or simply enjoy a special meal with your loved ones, this holiday is sure to be a memorable one. So join us in welcoming Spring!