Demons out! Good luck in! Happy Setsubun!

This blog post is brought to you by Paige C., Flowing Wells Library.

While many cultures celebrate Lunar New Year, February brings a different holiday to Japan. Falling this year on February 3rd is the fun and exciting holiday of Setsubun.

Setsubun (節分, せつぶん) translates into “seasonal division” and usually takes place around February 3rd, when winter ends and spring begins according to the Japanese lunar calendar. The holiday does not result in a day off for Japan, but it is beloved and widely celebrated—especially by school children. It can be celebrated both at home and at a temple, and is always sure to be a fun experience.

The holiday is about banishing evil spirits and bad luck from one’s home and welcoming good fortune and happiness. Roasted soybeans are central to making this happen.

This tradition is called mamemaki (豆まき, まめまき). The soybeans are thrown out of the house to drive away oni, ogre-like demons common in Japanese folklore. As the soybeans are thrown (sometimes even at a person, such as a father, with an oni mask!) those throwing the soybeans chant:


Oni wa soto! Fuku wa uchi! – meaning “Oni, get out! Good luck, come in!”

After the beans are thrown, and the bad luck and evil spirits have been banished, people then eat the amount of beans corresponding to their age—plus one to grow on—for good fortune in the upcoming year.

Alongside mamemaki is the holiday tradition of ehōmaki (恵方巻, えほうまき). Ehōmaki translates into “lucky direction roll.” For this, people get special sushi rolls that are very long and eat them facing the lucky direction—facing the ehō (恵方, えほう)—with eyes closed and without talking. The roll should also not be cut. If a person can eat the whole roll in silence facing this direction (which changes yearly), they will get good fortune for the entire year. 2022’s lucky direction is north north-west.

Of course, Setsubun has plenty of crafts and recipes that you can do at home so you can celebrate your own Setsubun and welcome luck into your next year!