February 3rd is Setsubun (節分) in Japan. Setsubun marks the beginning of Spring, according to the Japanese lunar calendar. It’s not a holiday, just special day.
There is a ritual associated with Setsubun, which is a kind of cleansing ritual. There is a chant: おに は そと、ふく は うち, which means “devil get out, happiness come in”. The ritual is called ‘mamemaki’ (豆撒き), which means ‘bean scattering’. Roasted soybeans (irimame – 炒り豆) are thrown out of the front door of the house by the eldest man of the house, traditionally. The family member wears a devil mask as he does this, and says the chant. Then, it is traditional to eat soy beans – either one for each year of your life, or one for each year plus one for the coming year. The whole thing is a kind of new year’s ritual.
As with all holidays and festivals in Japan, the shops are full of Setsubun goodies, like these ones I picked up at my local supermarket.
In this pack there is a paper devil mask, some roasted soybeans, and various other sweets and crackers. I especially like the candy feet!
I’m not sure if my neighbours would appreciate me throwing soybeans around the apartment block, but I’ll happily eat some beans to mark the occasion, and try to bring the happiness in for the coming year! 🙂