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?

Setsubun5 Setsubun6

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 πŸ™‚


For more information, you can also read TokyoFive’s blog post and Samurai Dave’s 2007 and 2008 blog posts about this unique event.


8 thoughts on “Setsubun

  1. Did you attend a η―€εˆ†η₯­ (Setsubun FestivaL)?

    That’s good. It was fun, I bet.

    >Can anyone recognize any other celebrities in these pictures?

    I recognize them all. They’re all quite famous (in Japan).

  2. I just attended the bean-throwing part for about 30 minutes during my lunch break as yesterday was a workday.

    Can you name the celebrities in the pictures – I am just curious.

  3. Sorry. I watch alot of TV and I know my favorite celebrities names, of course.
    But the people in your photos, I only recognize from seeing them on TV. I don’t know their names. (Although I saw on TV that Tamao Nakamura was at that temple’s Setsubun festival…I know her by name. But I don’t see her in your photos πŸ˜‰ ).

  4. Wow, thanks for the information, i was gathering information on the Setsubun festival and your blog entry really helped me.

    i never knew this festival was so big.

    Again thankyou, your blog is very interesting.. πŸ™‚

    • Thank you for visiting my blog and commenting. I am glad it has helped you. If you are not in Japan, hope you get a chance to visit here soon and see it in person.

  5. Pingback: Year In Review: Festivals « Konnichiwa

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