Celebrating the Setsubun Festival is an annual tradition in Japan. This year it was held on February 3rd or the day before the official arrival of spring in Japan. Setsubun traditionally means “Division of Seasons”, but in Japan, it is more commonly known as the “Bean-Throwing Festival”. It involves throwing dried soybeans at people wearing “Oni” or demon masks to cast out evil and invite good luck. Join us as we celebrate the Setsubun Festival at Toshogu Shrine in Sendai.
Since we only recently arrived in Sendai this was our first experience celebrating Setsubun. Coco does remember celebrating Setsubun with her family when she was younger. But we never experienced this at a major shrine, and we looked forward to this for some time. And we invite you to join us to celebrate the Setsubun festival at Toshogu Shrine with locals both young and old.
We figured that since Toshogu Shrine is one of the major shrines in Sendai rather than a local neighborhood shrine we better arrive early. Therefore we arrived about 45 minutes before the ceremony started. And we were not alone. Crowds were already gathered close to the two main platforms, and more locals were arriving by the minute. The crowd had an excited air about them, much like you would see at a carnival. Many carried bags to catch the thrown treats, and we even saw someone with a catcher’s mitt! We gathered that for many this was not the first time celebrating Setsubun Festival at Toshogu Shrine.
Time to Toss Beans!
As the time for the official celebration drew closer the crowd got more and more excited. Everyone began to jostle for the best positions. And the priests on the two main platforms as well as one of the shrine side buildings encouraged the crowds to get even closer as tossing treats over long distances was a bit tiring. We guess even priests at the famous Toshogu Shrine have limitations!
Before long the platforms filled with priests and local celebrities carrying wooden boxes filled with dried soybeans, prizes, and other freebies. After a brief introduction and thank you by the officiating priest, the Setsubun Festival at Toshogu Shrine was underway. Amid shouts of “Out with evil! In with fortune!” priests and celebrities began tossing beans and prizes into the excited crowd gathered below. Some threw them by the handful, others one at a time.
Out with Evil! In with Fortune!
In front of the platforms children and adults scrambled to catch at least a few. Some held out shopping bags and hats. Others simply hoped to catch something in their bare hands. Everyone was laughing and shouting, and we are sure any evil spirits beat a hasty retreat. This was our first Setsubun Festival at Toshogu Shrine, but it will definitely not be our last! We had a great time observing, and even trying to catch a few goodies ourselves. And we hope our video gives you a chance to experience the Bean Throwing Festival yourself!