CHEERZ, the app for cheering on your favorite idols, isn’t just limited to Japanese, and is available in English and Chinese (Traditional), as well as French, and is used by idol fans around the world. As part of a campaign, every month at TGU, we interview CHEERZ’s monthly ranked top three girls.

This month’s guests are Kokoro Shinozaki from –petit pas!-, Kotone Asakawa from Nazotoki RPG Idol Last Question, and Mizuki Ueno from choco’to Cacao%. This time we’ll be talking to each of them about their participation in the annual Setsubun bean-throwing event at Kanda Shrine with the other members of their groups!

Speaking of Kanda Shine, it’s the place where the AKB group’s Coming-of-Age-Day ceremonies are held, and is known as the “idol holy land”. Additionally, each year on February 3rd the Setsubun Festival Bean-Throwing Ceremony is held there, and is considered a special event, often said to be the gateway to success for idols on the verge of getting their big break, featuring top shining idols, like PASSPO☆ in 2011 and AKB48 back in 2009.

According to the calendar, February 3rd marks the last day of winter, or Setsubun, and throwing beans on this day has become a traditional Japanese custom. Even a surprising number of Japanese are unsure of Setsubun’s roots. So what were our three idols able to learn about this unique Japanese cultural event? Our idols, who are sure to become future representatives of Japan, interviewed Mr. Kishikawa, the representative of Kanda Shrine Public Relations, and through their exchange about Setsubun we learned a lot!

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From right to left : Mizuki Ueno, Kotone Asakawa, Kokoro Shinozaki, and Kishikawa-san

Everyone: Thank you for having us.

Kokoro: Thank you for letting me take part in the bean-throwing at Kanda Shrine, or this year’s CHEERZ bean-throwing event. I’d like to know more about Japanese culture, so I hope you’ll let me ask you some questions about Setsubun.

Mr. Kishikawa: Sure, it would be my pleasure.

Kokoro: First of all, why does Setsubun (the end of winter) take place on February 3rd?

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Mr. Kishikawa: Actually, February 3rd is the day before Setsubun. It carries the meaning of welcoming spring after it has passed. So there are seasonal festivals in all the four seasons, but among these for some reason, historically there used to be a festival on Setsubun for casting out misfortune, where people would eagerly throw beans while saying, “Good luck in, demons out!”

Kotone: Around when did this custom begin?

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Mr. Kishikawa: It’s an ancient one that goes way back. Originally the Imperial family would go around saying “Setsubun ya”, and once the Emperor started a festival for it, common people began celebrating it as well.

Kotone: Why do people throw beans?


Mr. Kishikawa: One reason was to get rid of the demons by throwing them, but it seems another reason was in order to give an offering to the gods of the earth. Long ago people would throw offerings to the gods of the earth. So, the same with Setsubun beans, they were also given as an offering to these gods. But between the two, it would seem the main meaning has become to ward off demons.

Kotone: So the beans are to hit them with!

Mr. Kishikawa: That’s right. However the demons are also originally gods, so while they’re mean to hit them, they’re also an offering like I mentioned before.

Mizuki: That makes sense! Do you have any pointers on the correct way to throw the beans?

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Mr. Kishikawa: Well, there’s not a particular correct way, but at the Kanda Shrine we throw sweets along with beans. (laugh) So I think you should aim to throw them out to everyone as much as possible.

Kotone: There’s more freedom to it than I’d originally thought! (laugh) I’ve heard that the phrase “Demons out, good luck in!” differs depending on region, but is that true?

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Mr. Kishikawa: That’s right, there are places that don’t say “demons out”, as well as ones that don’t say “good luck in”, too; it really depends. (laugh)

Kotone: Is there a particular meaning behind people born in the same (Chinese) zodiac year throwing beans? (For example, 2016 is the year of the monkey, so people born in other monkey years like 2004, 1992, 1980, etc.)

Mr. Kishikawa: Yes, there’s a purification meaning behind it. Once you reach a certain age, you get tired from a number of things, right? (laugh) So part of the exorcism is purifying yourself as you throw the beans.

Kokoro: I see, so the beans have the power of purification.

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Mr. Kishikawa: I believe so, yes.

Kokoro: Speaking of which, I’ve heard that you should eat the same number of beans as your age on Setsbun, but is this true?

Mr. Kishikawa: Well, there are a lot of traditions that have been handed down, but I think it’s a good thing to do now.

Mizuki: Just a little before we drank some sake (rice wine), but is there any meaning to drinking it on Setsubun?

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Mr. Kishikawa: Drinking sake is to receive the power of the gods. Also you become cleansed.

Kotone: Are the things people throw different depending on their region? I was a little surprised to hear about sweets being thrown. (laugh)

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Mr. Kishikawa: They are. There are places that really just throw beans, but at the Kanda Shrine, although Setsubun is part of Shinto rituals, we also feel people should enjoy it, so by throwing sweets it’s kind of like a lottery… And I think something fun like that is good for the shrine.

Kotone: That’s interesting. About how many people visit each year?

Mr. Kishikawa: We never really count how many people visit each year, but during the first three days of the new year around 300,000 people come to pray.

Kotone: Does that number include overseas visitors, too?

Mr. Kishikawa: Yes, there are quite a lot. Today there were overseas travellers that visited here and there, too. Because Akihabara is so close, we get quite a few visitors from a number of countries.

Kotone: Just before there were some foreigners on the shrine path that were saying “Love Live! Love Live!” as they walked.

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Mr. Kishikawa: Yes, the Kanda Shrine is collaborating with Love Live! Thanks to that, there have been many visitors.

Kokoro: It’s easy for a lot of people to come by with a non-so-strict, “everyone have fun” kind of atmosphere.

Mr. Kishikawa: Shrines are a place where you go to pray, so of course there is a sacred meaning to it, but originally they were tourist destinations. In the past they had shooting ranges, too. So I think it’s better if shrines are places where people can enjoy themselves. Because of that, Kanda Shrine is doing collaborations like this one.

Everyone: Thank you for such a valuable discussion!

Following the bean-throwing event, we had a luxurious Setsubun (winter’s end) meal. Since the mean contained many dishes not normally eaten, everyone was very excited!

Our three idols surprisingly learned a lot about Setsubun’s roots, how the shrine was originally a place for enjoyment, and so on. By knowing more about their country, hopefully they’ll be able to draw upon their knowledge of Japan during their activities overseas!

It’s worth noting that although the Setsubun event is only held on February 3rd, you can still visit Kanda Shrine any time during the year. If you come to Japan we hope you’ll enjoy making a visit there.

Related links 
–petit pas!- official site : http://petitpas.mave-ricks.com/
Kokoro Shinozaki Twitter : https://twitter.com/kokoro777pp
Last Question official site : http://lab-question.jp/
Kotone Asakawa Twitter : https://twitter.com/enotok_a
choco’to Cacao% official site : http://www.wip-idol.com/
Mizuki Ueno Twitter : https://twitter.com/chococaca_mikki
CHEERZ official site : https://cheerz.cz/

Photos by Nathan Gey
Translated by Jamie Koide

Author
Ayaya
Ayaya

Been working in girls’ fashion magazines for a long time and am now the chief editor of Tokyo Girls’ Update. I have more expertise in Japanese teen fashion than anyone else (probably)! I’m a huge fan of the Revolutionary Girl Utena and Bakemonogatari animes.

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