Japanese Custom Setsubun: Kick Out the Devils!

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Japanese Custom Setsubun: Kick Out the Devils!

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Do you know what Japanese do on February 3rd? It’s Setsubun! We say “Devils out! Blessings inside!” (Oni was soto! Fuku wa uchi!) and throw soybeans at the people disguised as devils.

It started around 706 as Tsuina, an event held at the end of the year to get rid of the devils. Setsubun is written as 節分, which 節 means seasons and 分 means distinction to describe the turn of the seasons. There is a belief that when season changes, it’s easier for evil spirits to come in. To prevent it, there are some other customs than throwing soybeans.


It does not look pretty, but we stick the head of a sardine into a holly branch. Devils do not like the smell of sardines, and the leaf of the holly tree’s prickle will stab the eyes of the devils. We set this at the entrance so that they cannot come in.


The origin of this custom s not certain yet, but it became popular after around 1998 when Seven-Eleven started selling them as they heard about the custom in Osaska. When eating this, you have to look at the direction of the good fortune which changes every year. This year’s direction is South-South-East. Originally, “Ehou” means the direction where a god named Tokutokujin is, so when we eat, we look at the direction of him/her. Also, you have to be careful to eat continuously and not to speak. This is because if you stop eating, the good fortune will be cut off, and if you speak, it will escape. It maybe a bit weird custom, but ehoumaki is always tasty!

Usually we do all these inside the house, but recently, more events are held to have fun on Setsubun.

Kanda Shrine


Many shrines are doing the ceremony of setsubun, and among them, this shrine is epic because many TV personalities and idol groups have joined the ceremony in the past. As you may know, Kanda shrine is famous for AKB48 members to have their coming of age celebration. Adding to that, in 2009, Minami Takahashi, Atsuko Maeda, Sayaka Akimto, Sae Miyazawa, Erena Ono and Tomomi Kasai came to the Setsubun event and threw soybeans. This year’s guest list is not announced yet, but hopefully, it’ll be fun! In 2016, CHEERZ was the guest, so if you want to look back, check the article below!

CHEERZ Interview #8 : Learn and Experience Japanese Traditional Event “Setsubun”!

Sugoi Mamemaki

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As the name suggests, it’s an awesome party where you throw the soybeans at the artists! Every year, the amount of the soybeans is increasing. When it was first held in 2012, the amount was 1.5 tons. It was already so much but kept increasing and in 2017, it became 4 tons! If you are concerned about the wasted soybeans, do not worry. They are bought from farmers in northeastern part of Japan, and the beans are all something that couldn’t be sold at markets due to the shape and the taste. After the party, all the beans are collected and made into fertilizer. In 2017, idol groups such as Niji No Conquistador and Ebisu☆Muscats were invited and boosted up the audience.

Now, the custom is changing its form at some parts and enjoyed by everyone.  Knowing the origin of the custom and then enjoying the new form would be even more amazing!

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University student in Tokyo who loves eating and traveling! Read Jump comics and watch Ghibli films during free time.

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