節分 Setsubun is a “bean scattering” or “bean throwing” holiday that occurs on February 3rd. Setsubun literally means the division of seasons, the change from winter into spring. There are many rituals involved in Setsubun.

One is bean-scattering, called mame-maki 豆撒き, to prevent evil demons from entering your house; it is believed that the ogres are warded off by beans, the beans will purify/cleanse your home, and that good fortune will then come to your home. According to tradition, if you eat the same number of beans as your age (plus one for luck), you will enjoy a year of good health.

Every year, I buy roasted soy beans (daizu 大豆) from the grocery, though some people also use peanuts. This time of year they are labeled 福豆 fukumame, “lucky beans.” Sometimes they come with cute masks of oni 鬼 (demon) or おかめ okame (homely/plain lady).

While scattering beans inside and outside the house, at the designated oni (usually the father, eldest male, or male born in the current year’s zodiac will wear the oni mask), you are supposed to chant (in Japanese):

鬼は外!    oni wa soto!           demons (evil) outside!
福は内! fuku wa uchi!        luck (fortune) inside!

In Okinawan language, the pronunciation is a bit different…

ウネーフカ!    unee-fuka   「鬼は外」
フコーウチ!    fukoo-uchi  「福は内」

My oldest dog was designated oni this year because he was born in this year’s zodiac. I don’t know how he felt about me throwing beans at him…

Many elementary schools will hold this ritual, the oni terrorizing the small children; I have seen some of the videos on the local news.

Every year, the temple in my village holds a Setsubun festival (it usually held on Feb 11th, the public holiday, since Feb 3rd is only an observed holiday). It is really pretty entertaining… people bring all sorts of bags, boxes and containers to catch the lucky beans tossed by the lucky men and women born with the same zodiac as the current year. It honestly reminded me of the scene from Spirited Away when No-face was throwing gold at the bath house workers.

Another custom, which comes from western Japan (but has now spread), is eating an eho-maki 恵方巻 (translation is “lucky-direction roll”); it is a fat sushi rolled wrapped in nori, while facing the year’s lucky direction (determined by the zodiac, it is supposed to be the direction that the kami/god lives in). You are supposed to stand, facing the lucky direction with your eyes closed, and eat the roll all at once without pausing! Considering the size of some these… it is quite difficult. But since it is not really traditional in Okinawa, lots of different types of “eho-maki” will make an appearance, including sweet ones, like roll cakes or crepes!

Some families also put up small decorations made up of sardine heads and holly leaves, called hiragi iwashi 柊鰯, at the entrance of the house to ward off bad spirits.

Narita-san Fukusenji (temple) address: 〒901-2403 沖縄県中頭郡中城村字伊舎堂617  https://goo.gl/maps/r1YFXQDMQVE2

Naminoue Shrine 波上宮 in Naha has a large Setsubun festival held on Feb 3rd every year; it is shown on the news: https://goo.gl/maps/sLP2LHodzT92

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