Japan’s devilishly fun festival to celebrate the start of spring and good fortune for all!
It may not feel like we’re out of the throws of winter just yet in the UK, but today, across Japan, you’ll find throngs of people celebrating the start of Spring with the annual Setsubun festival – a festival that is said to bring good luck, prosperity and happiness for everyone who gets involved. Based on the lunar calendar, this year the festival takes place on February 3rd.
The origin of Setsubun comes from an old Japanese folktale about a demon called Oni who would scare people with his terrible appearance and bad odor. One day, he went around town scaring everyone except one little boy named Kintarou (also known as Golden Boy). The brave Kintarou threw beans at him while saying “Oni wa soto! Fuku wa uchi!” which means “Out with evil, in with fortune!”
And so the tradition began, and Setusubun continues to be one of the most celebrated Japanese festivals of today.
‘Oni wa soto! Fuku wa uchi!’ (Devil out! Fortune in!), they all shout, whilst throwing roasted soybeans outside their front door to ward off evil spirits – in Japanese folklore, beans are symbols of good luck. This bean throwing tradition is called mamemaki, or “scattering of beans”, and whilst the manner of their ‘mamemaki’ may vary from house to house, the actions are taken to symbolize the banishing of evil spirits and misfortune from their home.
There are many fun ways to celebrate this special day —here are just a few ideas:
Traditional Japanese food, like roasted soybeans and mochi (rice cakes), are eaten during Setsubun to bring good luck. And to increase their chances of good luck for the coming year, some families also eat one roasted soybean for each year of their life.
You can also buy lucky charms at local temples or shrines to pass out to friends and family members!
Another food that plays a major role in Setsubun is the ehomaki, or “lucky direction sushi roll.”
Ehomaki is a long sushi roll filled with seven different ingredients to represent the seven gods of happiness (Shichifukujin). This famous sushi roll then needs to be consumed, in silence, whilst facing this year’s lucky direction – which happens to be South-Southeast for 2023, according to the lunar calendar.
Well, we think this year we all need as much luck as we can get, so the team at KIBOU are getting right behind this tradition and are happy to chant ‘Oni wa soto! Fuku wa uchi!’, as we ditch winter for some spring fortune (and get our teeth stuck into a freshly prepared ehomaki!).