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     Recently, you may have seen things such as long hand rolled sushi, roasted soy beans and demon masks at your local convenience store.
It may seem a bit strange to first time visitors to Japan who are used to seeing an abundance of chocolate, first come February. However, in Japan there is one more holiday to celebrate before Japan pays Tribute to Italy’s Saint Valentine.


--Setsubun, also known as Japan’s bean-throwing festival.
Today, we went out to join in on these festivities at Mt. Minobu’s very own Kuonji Temple.  setsubunR12

     According to the old Japanese lunar Calendar February 3rd marks the day before the beginning of spring and in fact, its name literally means `seasonal division`.


     Although to people from other regions across the world, it may seem that Japan is jumping the gun a bit by celebrating spring early February. During our trip to Kuonji Temple we were lucky enough to see some of the first cherry blooms of the season, Yamazakura begin to bloom.



But what exactly goes on during the Setsubun Celebration?


     Here at Kuonji, Setsubun is celebrated in two parts. First, visitors gather in the main temple for as the honored guests are introduced, ranging from famous athletes to influential politicians and the like. Then it is followed by an impressive Buddhist incantation ceremony that echo’s all through the grand halls of the temple. Thus concludes the first part.

And now onto the main events.

Once back outside you’ll notice something, strange lurking between the guests. Green and red beasts with horns, sneaking up behind young children and rawr scarring them and taking great pictures for the festival. 


     One of the main ideas behind the festival is that it’s a festival to drive away bad luck (and demons, or oni) to ensure a great bad year. In the 13th century during the earlier days of Setsubun this was accomplished by heading the heads of sardines outside ones door. A practice that can still be seen in some parts of Japan today. However, nowadays things are a little less stinky and a little more, aggressive.

     When celebrated at home, families will gather as the father dresses up like a demon. Then the kids will have fun throwing roasted soybeans at them to “drive them away”. Or they would simply just throw the beans around the house. All while everyone shouts `Oni wa Soto, Fuku wa Uchi` -- demons out, and luck in.setsubunR15

     At shrines and temples, especially the big ones it’s done a little different. The bean throwing, called mame-maki is usually entrusted to the biggest names they can find, like here at Kuonji Department heads from the Yamanashi Prefectural Government, Councilmen, an Opera group and even the famous Japanese-Brazillian Sumo wrestler Kaisei Ichiro were among the many who were invited to be the bean tossers. They all stood on a red and white decorated platform about 5 meters off the ground with large boxes filled with Mt. Minobu branded `Luck beans` wrapped in paper triangles by the handful. Beneath lie in wait crowds of young children, parents and even the elderly waiting to have a little bit of luck tossed their way, by the people who seemed to be overflowing with it.


     It was a nice, peaceful occasion where everyone joined together trying to catch some beans packets thrown their way, and even the kids had fun trying to catch the few snacks that also came falling from the sky.

     Is what I would like to say, but in all actuality it was War.
     As an American, the best way I can describe it was what it looks like on Black Friday just as they opened those big doors to your nearest best buy. But as crazy as it was, it was super fun and is definitely an event I recommend trying out at least once in your life. Kuonji holds the event on the day of Setsubun every year so although the 2020 events are finished, there`s always next year.

Photo with Kuonji’s mascot character

Oh and added bonus… The roasted soy beans actually taste great. 


10-minute bus from JR Minobu Station.
1 hour 20 minute drive from the Kofu-Minami Interchange.
Minobu Tourist Association
TEL: 0556-62-0502

Published on

  • April 6, 2020


Home > Staff Journal > Setsubun at Kuonji: A bean toss into spring