By scaring away all evil around you, with beans, it marks the beginning of spring. This is the tradition of Setsubun.
According to the Japanese lunar calendar, Setsubun no Hi ( 節分の日 ), observed annually on February 2, 3, or 4th and is a traditional event marking the official beginning of spring. Though not a national holiday, Setsubun is commonly celebrated throughout Japan and is one of all Japanese children’s favorite traditions. It’s a day packed with bean-throwing, bean-eating, and attempts to scare away evil to welcome good fortune.
Setsubun is publicly celebrated with fervor, but the custom of mame maki (bean throwing) at home can still be carried out by individual families. If the same zodiac animal as the new year is shared by some male family members, they get to play the ogre who wants to come in and create problems. The senior male of the household defaults to the position if no one’s animal sign matches. Wearing a frightening mask, the person chosen to play the role of an ogre or evil spirit attempts to come into the room or house. Everyone else throws beans at them and screams, “Out with evil! In with fortune!” with both seriousness, and some giggles in the case of children.
During the festival, a unique sushi roll is prepared, which can either be made with your favorite makizushi fillings at home or purchased at your nearest Seven-Eleven. The tradition is that in the evening of Setsubun, one should make a wish, turn to the lucky direction for the year and eat the whole roll for good luck in complete silence. This year, “east-north-east” was the lucky path.
You may be asking yourself, Why Soybeans? Are Demons allergic to them? Well, beans are tokens of good luck in Japanese folklore. Soybeans are the second favorite in the Shinto tradition (after rice, of course). Since soybeans are larger and slightly more threatening than rice, to fend off demons, they became a favorite in the Setsubun tradition.