February 3rd is Setsubun no hi (節分の日) in Japan, which is a day that marks the change of the season. The word Setsubun literally means a division of the seasons. Setsubun no hi is not an official national holiday, but it is celebrated in ways meant to drive away evil spirits and bad luck and bring in good luck.
The next day, February 4th, is called Risshun (立春) and marks the official start of the spring season in Japan.
Setsubun Traditions and Customs
It is custom on Setsubun for people of all ages to throw beans and shout “Oni wa soto. Fuku wa uchi”, which basically means out with the demons and in with good luck! It is traditionally believed that the throwing of beans and shouting would drive away the demons of misfortune and thus allow prosperity.
The most famous custom of Setsubun is the mame-maki, or bean throwing. This is held at many Buddhist temples and Shinto Shrines in Japan, where dried beans are thrown to the spectators. People try and catch these beans usually with plastic bags or hats.
Another tradition is to eat the number of beans corresponding to your age in the current year (2013). Another way to celebrate is by eating a big, long, fat, uncut sushi roll called ehomaki. Eho means “good luck direction” and maki means “roll”. You are meant to face the good luck direction (this year it’s south east) and eat the ehomaki with your eyes closed and without talking.
This year we visited the Setsubun Celebrations at Kano located near the south exit of Gifu JR Station. This place is famous for its huge oni. There were many street vendors selling all kinds of Japanese festival food.