Setsubun is a traditional Japanese festival for the change of seasons, celebrated on the 3rd of February, one day before Springtime. Like any other decent celebration in Japan, setsubun includes customs, traditions, special foods and rituals to bring good fortune, health and a better future. The rituals are then mixed to suit everyone’s taste. I did a whole bunch of traditions on my last whole day in Japan, plus an extra something: walking on burning coal!
Setsubun includes mamemaki, throwing soybeans in order to ward off evil spirits. Beans are sold in stores as well as festival stalls. Some shrines have mamemaki events, where priests throw beans to people while yelling “Oni wa soto! Fuku wa uchi!” (demons out, luck in!). I participated in mamemaki in Nara, where I visited on setsubun. Sake was served, and the spirit for good fortune was all around.
Amulets and charms are burnt in bonfires to bring luck. I got to participate in the big bonfire burning in Yoshida shrine, Kyoto. Unfortunately I have no pictures of that; Let’s just say it was about 10 times the size of Finnish midsummer fires. The festival stalls in Yoshida shrine were definitely great to experience before leaving Japan.
It is customary in Kansai area to eat uncut makizushi called eho-maki (恵方巻) (lit. “lucky direction roll”) in silence on Setsubun while facing the year’s lucky compass direction (this year South-East), determined by the zodiac symbol of that year. My eho maki was sitting in a shrine, overlooking Nara.