History and Origin of Setsubun|The Meaning of Bean-throwing and Traditional Events Thoroughly Explained

節分の歴史と由来|豆まきの意味と伝統行事を徹底解説

Motenas Representative
Motenas Representative

Have you ever wondered about the history and origin of Setsubun?

Although many people enjoy mame-maki (bean-throwing) and ehomaki (rolls wrapped in ehomaki) for Setsubun, not much is known about the history and meaning of these festivals.

This article details the basic definition of Setsubun, its historical background, the origin and proper method of bean-throwing, and regional customs.

You will be able to resolve your questions about Setsubun and rediscover the depth and charm of Japanese culture.

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What is Setsubun?

History and Origin of Setsubun|The Meaning of Bean-throwing and Traditional Events Thoroughly Explained

Have you ever heard the word “Setsubun”? Even if you have heard of it, you may not know in detail what it means.

Learn more about the basic definition and true meaning of Setsubun.

Basic Definition of Setsubun

Setsubun is a traditional Japanese event that celebrates the turning of the seasons.

The most famous day is probably February 3, the day before the first day of spring.

This day marks the transition from winter to spring, and ceremonies are held to drive away evil spirits and bring in good fortune.

The word “Setsubun” means “division of the seasons,” and although the day before Risshun, Risshatsu, Risshakyu, and Risshunyu are also considered Setsubun, generally only the day before Risshun is considered important.

The True Meaning of Setsubun

The true meaning of Setsubun is to drive away evil spirits at the turn of the season and to prepare for the beginning of a new season.

It originated from the ancient Chinese ritual called “Tsuina”, which originated from the Yin-Yang Tao and was introduced to Japan.

In this ceremony, beans are sprinkled to drive away ogres, prevent bad luck, and invite good fortune.

Setsubun also has the significance of strengthening unity in the family and community, and is celebrated with family bean-throwing and a meal of ehomaki rolls.

Historical Background of Setsubun

History and Origin of Setsubun|The Meaning of Bean-throwing and Traditional Events Thoroughly Explained

Setsubun is a traditional Japanese event with a long history.

Let’s take a closer look at how it has developed historically from its origins to the present day.

Origin of Setsubun

The origin of Setsubun comes from the Yin-Yang Tao of ancient China.

This Yin-Yang philosophy emphasized harmony and balance in nature and included rituals to ward off evil spirits.

It was introduced to Japan in the Nara period (710-794), and was held as a ritual called “Tsuina”.

Tsuina was an important ritual at court to drive away evil spirits and invite good fortune, and became officially established as a court event in the Heian period (794-1185).

When this ritual was introduced to Japan during the Nara period (710-794), it was performed in a solemn atmosphere at certain times of the year at the court.

During the Heian period (794-1185), Tsuina ceremonies were held in grand style, with people playing the role of ogres in costume, symbolizing the evil spirits and going around the court to drive them away.

In this ceremony, the ritual involved going around the various parts of the court and chanting incantations to drive away evil spirits, followed by various rituals to invite good fortune.

Setsubun Evolution

Setsubun began as a court event in the Heian period (794-1185), but gradually spread to the general public.

During the Muromachi period (1333-1573), samurai and farmers also began to celebrate Setsubun, and by the Edo period (1603-1867), it had spread throughout the country.

It was also around this time that the custom of scattering beans while chanting “Oni wa soto, Fuku wa ine” took root in each household.

Each region also developed its own customs.

For example, in the Tohoku region, there is a custom of sowing peanuts instead of beans.

This is for the practical reason that peanuts are easy to clean.

In the Kansai region, the custom of eating ehomaki has spread, and it is believed that by facing a specific direction and eating it silently, one’s wishes will come true.

Thus, Setsubun has become a widely popular event throughout Japan, with each region having its own characteristics.

It continues to be an important event in which the whole family participates to strengthen bonds within the household and pray for good health.

Traditional Setsubun event: Bean-throwing

History and Origin of Setsubun|The Meaning of Bean-throwing and Traditional Events Thoroughly Explained

Bean-throwing is the most typical Setsubun event.

Let’s take a closer look at the origin, meaning and history of this traditional event.

Origin of the Bean-throwing Ceremony

The origin of the bean-throwing ceremony can be traced back to the ancient Chinese ritual called “Tsuina”.

This ritual was introduced to Japan during the Nara period (710-794) and came to be performed to purify evil spirits and invite good fortune.

During the Heian period (794-1185), it became a courtly event, and beans were spread to drive away evil spirits.

These beans are believed to be connected to “mame,” which means “to destroy evil,” and the custom of mamemaki (bean-throwing) was born.

Meaning of Bean-throwing Ceremony for Children

Mamemaki is an event to drive out ogres and invite in good fortune by scattering beans inside and outside the house.

It conveys to children the meaning of having the courage to drive away demons without fear and of strengthening bonds by having families enjoy doing this together.

So the bean-throwing ceremony is an event in which the whole family participates, chanting “Oni wa soto, Fuku wa ine” together as they throw beans to pray for everyone’s health and happiness.

History of Bean Maki

Bean-throwing has a long history, starting with the ritual of Tsuina held at the court in the Heian period (794-1185).

In the Muromachi period (1333-1573), the custom of bean-throwing spread among the common people.

During the Edo period (1603-1867), it became an annual family and community event and took on its present form.

Each region has its own method and calls for bean-throwing, and it is a popular Setsubun event throughout the country.

The correct way to scatter beans

History and Origin of Setsubun|The Meaning of Bean-throwing and Traditional Events Thoroughly Explained

Bean-throwing is one of the important events of Setsubun, and its effects can be expected when done correctly.

Let’s take a look at the time and procedure to hold the bean-throwing ceremony.

Time and Procedure for Sowing Beans

Mamemaki (bean-throwing) is held to drive away evil spirits in the house and invite good fortune.

Observe the following steps to ensure an effective bean-throwing ceremony.

Bean Preparation

Prepare beans ( roasted beans) for bean-throwing.

The reason for using roasted beans is to prevent sprouting.

Soybeans are generally used, but in some areas peanuts are used for ease of cleaning and eating.

Time zone

Bean-throwing ceremonies are usually held in the evening or at night.

This time period coincides with the time when demons are said to appear.

Procedure

  • Beans are scattered from the back of the house toward the front door. This is to drive out evil spirits inside the house.
  • The beans are scattered outside while chanting “Oni wa soto” (“Oni wa soto” means “the devil is outside”).
  • Afterwards, beans are scattered indoors while chanting “Fuku wa uchi (good fortune is within).
  • After the bean-throwing ceremony is over, it is customary to eat as many beans as the number of one’s age. This is to pray for good health.

Role of Participants

The head of the family or the New Year’s man or woman often sows the beans, but it is also good for the whole family to participate.

It will be a fun event if you decide on the role of the ogre and have the children chase the ogre away.

Let’s perform bean-throwing in the correct way to get rid of evil spirits and welcome the new season.

When the beans are sown, the whole family participates, which also strengthens the family bond.

Enjoy this traditional event and wish for good health and good luck.

Setsubun customs by region

History and Origin of Setsubun|The Meaning of Bean-throwing and Traditional Events Thoroughly Explained

Each region has its own unique customs for celebrating Setsubun.

Let’s take a closer look at the ehomaki, which are widely known throughout Japan, and the unique Setsubun foods of each region.

History and Nationwide Development of Ebomaki

Ebomaki is a custom that originally started in Osaka, where it is believed that one’s wishes will be fulfilled by silently eating a futomaki roll toward a specific direction of blessing (the auspicious direction of the year ).

This custom was held to pray for prosperous business and family safety.

In 1998, major convenience stores began selling the product nationwide, and it quickly became known nationwide.

Today, the custom of making ehomaki at home has spread and become a major Setsubun event.

Many families enjoy their own original ehomaki using a variety of ingredients.

In addition, a wide variety of ehomaki are sold at supermarkets and convenience stores, making it easy to purchase and enjoy them.

Thus, ehomaki has developed from a regional custom into a nationwide event and is widely accepted as one of the ways to enjoy Setsubun.

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Specific Setsubun foods by region

Setsubun also has foods that are unique to the region.

These foods are meant to wish for good health and good health.

For example, it is customary to eat konnyaku in Gunma and Shimane prefectures.

This is because konjac is believed to remove sand from the body.

In addition, in Nagano and Shimane prefectures, there is a custom of eating soba on Setsubun, which is meant to pray for good health.

Furthermore, in Fukushima Prefecture, there is a custom of eating tofu.

Tofu is considered a white, clean food and is eaten to pray for good health.

In Ehime Prefecture, there is a custom of eating mandarin oranges on Setsubun day, which is meant to pray for a good harvest.

Various other foods are also eaten as part of the Setsubun event in different regions, showing the rich regional flavor of Setsubun.

Thus, Setsubun is enjoyed in various forms throughout Japan as an event that reflects the characteristics of each region.

By incorporating foods from different regions, you will be able to enjoy the Setsubun event even more.

Symbols of demons and their meanings

History and Origin of Setsubun|The Meaning of Bean-throwing and Traditional Events Thoroughly Explained

Demons appearing in Setsubun are known as symbols of evil spirits and bad luck.

Let’s take a closer look at the demons and their role.

The appearance of demons and their origin

Oni are often depicted with features such as red or blue faces, horns, and tiger-skin pants.

These characteristics are derived from ancient Japanese beliefs and customs.

In particular, demon horns and tiger-patterned pants are considered symbols that demons are evil.

Role of Oni

Oni, or demons, symbolize evil spirits and bad luck in Setsubun.

The main focus of the event is to drive away demons and remove misfortune from the house by bean-throwing.

This act is an important ritual to dispel evil spirits and welcome the new season.

It is meant to pray for the health and good fortune of the family by driving out demons.

Setsubun Decorations and Tools

History and Origin of Setsubun|The Meaning of Bean-throwing and Traditional Events Thoroughly Explained

On Setsubun, decorations and tools are used to drive away demons.

Let’s look at some typical examples.

Meaning of Hiiragi Sardine

Holly sardines are decorations made by sticking roasted sardine heads on holly branches.

These decorations are displayed at the entrance and around the house.

It is believed that the sharp thorns of holly prick the eyes of demons.

It is also believed that the smell of sardines is repulsive to ogres and thus has the effect of keeping them away.

This custom, which has continued since ancient times, plays an important role in protecting homes and preventing disasters.

This custom is found throughout Japan, and some regions have even added their own unique arrangements.

For example, combining holly sardines with other ornaments to ward off bad luck, or displaying them in a specific location, may have a more powerful effect.

Thus, holly sardines are an important custom that has been handed down from generation to generation in many households.

Other Setsubun Decorations

There are various decorations other than holly sardines for Setsubun.

For example, a “masu” (a box to hold beans) and an ogre’s mask are commonly used.

Masu are used during the bean-throwing ceremony to pray for family safety and good health.

Oni masks will also be used by children to play the role of ogres and will add to the atmosphere of Setsubun.

These decorations are important items for enjoying Setsubun.

Setsubun Foods and Health Benefits

History and Origin of Setsubun|The Meaning of Bean-throwing and Traditional Events Thoroughly Explained

There are a variety of traditional foods for Setsubun.

These foods are also expected to have health benefits.

Below are some typical Setsubun foods and their health benefits.

Traditional food for Setsubun

The most famous traditional food for Setsubun is ehomaki.

By eating the taimaki (sushi roll) silently toward the direction of blessings (the auspicious direction of the year), people pray for good health and the fulfillment of their wishes.

Fried beans, sardines, and konnyaku are also often eaten on Setsubun.

These foods are meant to ward off bad luck and good health.

Health Benefits of Setsubun

Roasted beans eaten on Setsubun are high in protein and fiber.

This aids digestion and regulates the intestinal environment.

In addition, sardines contain abundant calcium and vitamin D, which support bone health.

Konnyaku is low in calories and high in fiber, and is known as a bowel cleaner.

Incorporating these foods will help maintain good health.

The Future of Setsubun

History and Origin of Setsubun|The Meaning of Bean-throwing and Traditional Events Thoroughly Explained

Setsubun continues to change with the times.

While preserving tradition, they are being enjoyed in new ways.

Below we will look at the future form of the knot.

Changing Setsubun Shapes

The form of Setsubun has also evolved in accordance with modern lifestyles.

For example, in addition to traditional bean-throwing ceremonies, there are an increasing number of Setsubun events through arranged recipes for ehomaki and social networking services.

In urban areas, where it is difficult to hold bean-throwing ceremonies in the home, they are often held as community events.

With these changes, Setsubun is being enjoyed in more diverse ways.

Internationalizing Setsubun

Setsubun is beginning to attract attention overseas as well.

With the growing popularity of Japanese food in particular, customs such as ehomaki and mame-maki are spreading overseas as well.

With more and more events introducing Japanese culture and traditional events, the joy of Setsubun is spreading to foreigners as well.

Internationalizing Setsubun will become a part of Japanese culture that will be recognized and familiar throughout the world.

For more information on Chinese Spring Festival and Western Risshun events, see also the article ” [Risshun around the World] Introducing the Differences between Japanese Setsubun and Chinese and Western Spring Festival with English Examples “.

summary

History and Origin of Setsubun|The Meaning of Bean-throwing and Traditional Events Thoroughly Explained

The history and culture of Setsubun has been passed down from ancient times to the present as an important part of Japanese traditional events.

The customs and events of Setsubun are familiar to many people, and their appeal will continue to grow.

Due to changes in accordance with modern lifestyles and increasing international recognition, Setsubun events are becoming increasingly diverse and widespread.

We hope that through Setsubun, you will gain a deeper understanding of traditional Japanese culture and feel its charm.

Motenas Japan produces traditional cultural events and experiences similar to Setsubun.

Please feel free to contact us if you are interested.

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Enjoy traditional Japanese culture through Setsubun!

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