In 2024, Setsubun falls on 3rd February. This is an important day in the Japanese calendar to mark the end of Winter and the beginning of Spring. Setsubun has been observed in Japan since the 8th Century, but the rituals popular today date from the 14th Century Muromachi Period.
Demons out - fortune in!
Perhaps the most well known Setsubun event is, mamemaki, the throwing of roasted soybeans. Beans are a staple food in Japan, believed to have sacred power including the ability to banish bad fortune or demons known as oni. As the beans are scattered around the house, people shout, “Oni wa Soto! Fuku wa Uchi!” meaning “Demons out! Fortune in!” The Japanese word for beans - mame - sounds similar to that for demon eyes, so defeating demons - mametsu - sounds like the phrase for throwing beans! Once the beans are collected up, many people will eat a bean for each year of their life, as this is said to bring good health.
Setsubun is also the day to eat ehomaki, a long, uncut sushi roll, traditionally made with seven ingredients. This number is important because there are seven Japanese gods of good fortune, known as Shichifukujin. Ehomaki is eaten with your eyes closed and without speaking, to bring good luck. It’s also important to face the right direction whilst eating, which changes each year. This year you must face northeast-east as you eat to invite good fortune into your life!