People celebrate New Year’s Eve in different ways, and these celebrations vary depending on the location, as well as the tradition and customs people follow. In Japan, they have a unique way of celebrating their Lunar New Year’s Eve which they call Bean Throwing Day.
Bean Throwing Day is also known as bean throwing festival or bean throwing ceremony. It is a holiday that celebrates the end of winter and the beginning of spring. This is originally a Chinese custom that has been introduced in Japan in the eighth century. It is a cultural and religious holiday. The celebration involves throwing beans around homes, shrines, and temples.
Bean throwing day is celebrated on February 3rd. It is associated with the Lunar New Year as the Lunar calendar starts around this time. Bean throwing day is a sort of New Year’s Eve and is done to scare away evil spirits to bring luck for the upcoming year ahead.
This festival is an annual holiday in Japan. The local calls the celebration “Setsubun” which literally means “seasonal division.” Setsubun refers to the day before the start of each season or the eves of Risshun (spring), Rikka (summer), Rishu (autumn), and Ritto (winter). Although, Setsubun is especially celebrated during the eve of Risshun as accompanied by a special ritual to cleanse away all the evil spirits and to keep it away for the year to come.
Setsubun is part of spring festival called “haru matsuri” in Japan. Spring Festival starts at Setsubun with a ritual called “mamemaki” which literally means scattering of the beans. Mamemaki is usually performed by the toshiotoko of the family or the male in the family who was born in the same animal year on the Chinese zodiac. If no one was born corresponding to the animal year, it will be performed by the head of the household.
A member of the family will wear a demon or ogre mask called Oni mask. Roasted soybeans or the “fortune beans” or “fuku mame” in Japanese, is thrown to them or out of the door. While throwing the beans, people will say “Oni wa Soto! Fuku wa Uchi!” which translates to “Demons out! Luck in!” and they will slam the door.
In Japanese households, this ritual is still common but many people choose to attend to shrine or temple’s spring festival where the ritual is done. The roasted beans symbolize to purify the home by driving away the evil spirits that bring misfortune and bad health to them. To bring the luck in, people are accustomed to eating one roasted soybean for each year of one’s life and in some areas, another soybean to bring good luck for the year to come.
There are celebrations for Setsubun at Shinto shrines and Buddhist temples all over Japan. Priests and guests will throw roasted soybeans that some are wrapped in gold or silver foil. The celebration also includes small envelopes with money, sweets, candies and other prizes. In much larger shrines, the guests are celebrities and sumo wrestlers where the event is nationally televised. Crowds of about 100, 000 people attend the annual festivities in the neighborhood of Tokyo at Senso-Ji in Asakusa.
In the area of Japan in Tohoku, the head of the household that is usually the father of the family would hold roasted beans in his hands and will pray at the family shrine and then they will toss the sanctified beans out of the door. In case of unavailability of soybeans, peanuts that are raw or coated in sweet with crunchy batter can be used in place of soybeans.
People usually spend their New Year’s Eve by partying all night but in Japan, they spend it traditionally with their family. People have different beliefs when it comes to bad luck and good luck, and through this festival, Japanese people ensures that they will have a prosperous new year awaiting them.