What is Setsubun?
Setsubun (節分) is a festival held one day before the start of spring according to the Japanese lunar calendar. It means seasonal division. The festival is held on February 2, 3 or 4.
For many centuries, people have been performing rituals with the purpose of chasing away evil spirits at the start of spring.
What do you do on Setsubun?
The most commonly performed Setsubun ritual is mame maki which is throwing of roasted beans around one's house and at temples and shrines across the country. When throwing beans, you are supposed to shout "Oni wa soto! Fuku wa uchi! (鬼は外! 福は内!)" ("Demons out! Fortune in!"). Afterwards you should pick up and eat the number of beans, which corresponds to your age.
You also eat eho-maki sushi rolls (Lucky Direction/Good Fortune sushi rolls) during Setsubun. Apparently one is supposed to eat the roll without talking, while facing the lucky direction of the year.
The lucky direction for 2021 is south-south-east.
Also, to prepare ehomaki you use 7 ingredients/fillings, in sync with the seven gods of fortune in Japanese mythology, called Shichifukujin. For example, shiitake mushrooms and kanpyo (dried gourd), cucumber, rolled omelet (tamagoyaki), eels, sakura denbu (sweet fish powder), and seasoned koyadofu (freeze-dried tofu) are used. These ingredients represent good health, happiness and prosperity.
Other ingredients can be use too to make eho-maki like smoked scallops, spear squid and cooked sansho (Japanese pepper). And nowadays you can buy eho-maki with different fillings in every convenience store/supermarket during Setsubun.
Like all traditions festival, Setsubun is celebrated in many variations throughout the country.