On February 3, Setsubun is celebrated with a traditional bean-throwing ceremony known as mamemaki held at many temples and shrines all over Japan. The beans are supposed to drive away the evil spirits that bring misfortune and bad health with them. Also, according to the lunar calendar, Setsubun marks the last day of winter, or the start of spring.
At Tokyo’s Zojoji Temple, with the famous Tokyo Tower in the background, the bean-throwing event was conveniently held between noon and 1 pm during the lunch hour.
At home, children throw beans at their father wearing a demon or devil mask to ward off or banish bad luck. The picture below at Zojoji temple shows the demons, also called oni (dressed in blue and red below) terrorizing the children – or actually, it looks like the other way around, the demons had no chance, they were pelted mercilessly by the young uns with beans!
People throng the compounds of temples to vie with one another for beans and other goodies which are thrown by priests and celebrities shouting “Fuku-wa-uchi, Oni-wa-soto!” (Fortune in, Devils out!) to drive away imaginary devils. I thought Japanese were polite and timid people, but there was a lot of pushing and shoving to grab the goodies using hands and bags. A couple of times, a group of people in front of me actually fell on the ground!
At the temples or shrines, celebrities (like famous sumo wrestlers, idols or TV stars) are invited during the bean throwing event. I am not familiar with any Japanese celebrities, except for the Indian enka singer Chadha (I only know this because he was also pictured in Japan Today and it was hard to miss him being the only non-Japanese participant). Can anyone recognize any other celebrities in these pictures?
My haul (catch) for the day (the white package contained a hanky and a pair of socks), not bad with one hand holding on to my camera … it is also good to be tall 🙂