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Annual Events in Japan

February: Setsubun

What day is February 3rd?

February 3rd is Setsubun, a day when people wish for good fortune without illness by throwing soybeans and shouting 'Fortune in! Demons out!'
The custom leading to the present day ceremony to drive away evil spirits was originally called 'Tsuina' and came to Japan from China. In the Heian period, an imperial ceremony called 'Tsuinashiki' was established. Tsuina was a ceremony for driving out demons. Those charged with driving out demons wore a mask with four eyes known as Hososhi and would kill them with arrows. Eventually, the demons were driven out using soybeans rather than arrows and the ceremony spread as a way to pray for good fortune. The ceremony of Tsuina is still conducted at the Heian Shrine in Kyoto on the day of Setsubun in the same way as it was in the past.

Why are soybeans used?

Soybeans are used because it was believed that since they sprout and grow with great force, they therefore have a mysterious power to fight against demons.
It was thought that if, after throwing the soybeans, if a person ate the same number of beans as his or her age, that person would not suffer from illness.

What is Ehomaki?

Eating a thickly rolled sushi while facing a favorable direction was originally a tradition of the Kansai region of Japan but has spread to the Kanto region of Japan in recent years. Good fortune was believed to be wrapped up in thickly rolled sushi, or makizushi, and by biting rather than cutting, one could avoid severing the connection with good fortune.
The favorable direction for 2011 is South-South east, so be sure to try eating makizushi while thinking of your wish.