Setsubun festivals in Okinawa: 節分祭

節分: Setsubun
祭: festival

In a previous post, I talked a little about Setsubun, the bean-scattering ceremony. This year, I went to the setsubun-sai (festival) at Naminoue Shrine, which is held on February 3rd. It was a grey and cloudy day, with a bit of a chill. My husband and I parked the car a few blocks away from the shrine and stopped at a conbini for coffee.

We walked up to the shrine a bit before 10am (the starting time), and with the overcast weather, it was busy but not as busy as New Years hatsumode. It started promptly at 10am, with some prayers and rites of various sorts. Next came the shishimai (lion dance), which is always a lot of fun. Finally it was time for the bean-throwing!

Now what surprised me about this festival was that they didn’t just throw beans… they threw oranges, candies, and little bags of snacks/toy as well! It was crazy, but entertaining. Again, like the Naritasan fukusenji festival, some people had bags and baskets, or used their hats, to help catch the flying prizes. After everything was thrown, the local news interviewed kids to see what all they caught. They also handed out hot zenzai (sweet red bean soup) at the shrine window~~ so as soon as the throwing is done, get in line before they run out of zenzai!

Overall, it was a lot of fun and not as crowded as I feared. So if you are in Okinawa during Setsubun, be sure to check out Naminoue Shrine’s festival!

You can also wait until Feb 11th (public holiday in Japan) for Naritasan Fukusenji’s bean-throwing festival. Since Naritasan fukusenji is my local temple, I typically attend the events there; this setsubun festival is a lot of fun too, though not as big as Naminoue shrine’s, and they only throw beans at this one. Plus at Naritasan, the sakura are usually blooming well, so the temple looks very pretty this time of year.

Narita-san Fukusenji (temple) holds their festival on Feb 11th, 2pm: 〒901-2403 沖縄県中頭郡中城村字伊舎堂617

Naminoue Shrine 波上宮 in Naha has a large Setsubun festival held on Feb 3rd, 10am, every year; it is shown on the news:

Gokokuji Shrine 護国神社 also has a Setsubun festival, Feb 3rd, 9am:

Bean-scattering Festival: 節分

節分 Setsubun is a “bean scattering” or “bean throwing” holiday that occurs on February 3rd. Setsubun literally means the division of seasons, the change from winter into spring. There are many rituals involved in Setsubun.

One is bean-scattering, called mame-maki 豆撒き, to prevent evil demons from entering your house; it is believed that the ogres are warded off by beans, the beans will purify/cleanse your home, and that good fortune will then come to your home. According to tradition, if you eat the same number of beans as your age (plus one for luck), you will enjoy a year of good health.

Every year, I buy roasted soy beans (daizu 大豆) from the grocery, though some people also use peanuts. This time of year they are labeled 福豆 fukumame, “lucky beans.” Sometimes they come with cute masks of oni 鬼 (demon) or おかめ okame (homely/plain lady).

While scattering beans inside and outside the house, at the designated oni (usually the father, eldest male, or male born in the current year’s zodiac will wear the oni mask), you are supposed to chant (in Japanese):

鬼は外!    oni wa soto!           demons (evil) outside!
福は内! fuku wa uchi!        luck (fortune) inside!

In Okinawan language, the pronunciation is a bit different…

ウネーフカ!    unee-fuka   「鬼は外」
フコーウチ!    fukoo-uchi  「福は内」

My oldest dog was designated oni this year because he was born in this year’s zodiac. I don’t know how he felt about me throwing beans at him…

Many elementary schools will hold this ritual, the oni terrorizing the small children; I have seen some of the videos on the local news.

Every year, the temple in my village holds a Setsubun festival (it usually held on Feb 11th, the public holiday, since Feb 3rd is only an observed holiday). It is really pretty entertaining… people bring all sorts of bags, boxes and containers to catch the lucky beans tossed by the lucky men and women born with the same zodiac as the current year. It honestly reminded me of the scene from Spirited Away when No-face was throwing gold at the bath house workers.

Another custom, which comes from western Japan (but has now spread), is eating an eho-maki 恵方巻 (translation is “lucky-direction roll”); it is a fat sushi rolled wrapped in nori, while facing the year’s lucky direction (determined by the zodiac, it is supposed to be the direction that the kami/god lives in). You are supposed to stand, facing the lucky direction with your eyes closed, and eat the roll all at once without pausing! Considering the size of some these… it is quite difficult. But since it is not really traditional in Okinawa, lots of different types of “eho-maki” will make an appearance, including sweet ones, like roll cakes or crepes!

Some families also put up small decorations made up of sardine heads and holly leaves, called hiragi iwashi 柊鰯, at the entrance of the house to ward off bad spirits.

Narita-san Fukusenji (temple) address: 〒901-2403 沖縄県中頭郡中城村字伊舎堂617

Naminoue Shrine 波上宮 in Naha has a large Setsubun festival held on Feb 3rd every year; it is shown on the news:

Gokokuji Shrine 護国神社 also has a Setsubun matsuri: