Japanese Language Blog

Japanese Culture: Risshun (立春) Posted by on Feb 2, 2009 in Uncategorized

All over Japan people are celebrating the season of Risshun (立春).  Risshun (立春) refers to the spring setsubun (節分).  Setsubun (節分) is a term that refers to the day before each new season.  Another term that is inter-changeable with the term risshun (立春) is haru matsuri (春祭).  Haru matsuri (春祭) literally means ‘spring festival’.  The haru matsuris (春祭) are usually celebrated on the third of February.  According to the lunar calendar, the beginning of the spring setsubun begins on the 3rd of February.  I like the risshun (立春) because it’s just another excuse to party right after all the New Year’s festivities!

Every haru matsuri (春祭), the Japanese people perform an interesting tradition called mamemaki (豆撒き).  Mamemaki (豆撒き) is a ritual where beans are scattered for good luck.  Usually, the responsibility of mamemaki (豆撒き) goes to the toshiotoko (年男).  The toshiotoko (年男) is the eldest male in the household.  If there is no surviving adult male in the household, the honors are passed down to the eldest female of the household.  ‘The scattering of beans,’ sounds kind of dull right?  Well, it can get very comical within a matter of seconds.

Here’s what I mean by comical: imagine a member of your family wearing a oni () mask and getting showered with beans!  An oni () mask is a mask of a demon or a troll.  Onis () are mythological creatures that are depicted with disfigured faces.  Ok, back to the bean throwing.  A family member will throw the beans at the oni () while chanting “Oni wa soto, fuku wa uchi (鬼は外! 福は内).”  When translated into English, it means, “Demons begone, good luck come in!”  It’s thought that throwing the beans at the oni () (or the poor family member who volunteers to be the victim) will cast away evil spirits from the household.

After the beans are thrown (or rather when the so called oni () calls time-out) everyone will sit together and gather all the beans to eat them.  The beans are roasted beforehand, and are therefore ready for consumption.  In particular these beans are soybeans called irimame (炒り豆).  Eating the beans, that’s the fun part.  Acting as the oni (), well all I’m going to say is that I learned my lesson!  Once, I gladly offered to be the oni () thinking that it would be cool to wear the mask.  The mask wasn’t the problem.  Who knew that roasted beans can turn into a weapon?  Like I said, I learned my lesson!  Lol.  Ok, time to head out for today, hope everyone enjoyed reading this post.

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  1. Jane Lin:

    Hello, I just finished your article. 🙂
    It is indeed an interesting Japanese ritual.

    I would like to ask about the amount of the beans poeple eat.
    I heart people eat the amount of the beans the same as their age; that is, if there is a 8-year-old boy, he has to eat 8 beans.
    Is it still obliged in Japan?

  2. Ginny:


    yes, some people still follow this ritual and some don’t.