The bean throwing event, Setsubun, is held in February to exorcise evil spirits (demons) and invite good fortune at the change of seasons. Unlike anywhere else, Kyoto has a unique way of celebrating the day aside from just the traditional bean throwing event. Over at many prestigious temples and shrines, there are some unfamiliar events and cultures associated with Setsubun such as "Yomomairi" and "Setsubun Obake", and it is said to gather thousands of crowds. Take a look at what the event offers.
Halloween in February?
Setsubun Obake is something similar to Halloween, but not dressing up in characters from a movie or an anime. It is an event in which geisha and maiko dress up in different costumes like wearing kimono with the makeup of a fox or ogre on the night of Setsubun. This is to trick the eyes of demons to ward off evil spirits and exorcise bad luck. This tradition dates back to the Heian Period and was once favored by the general public too. However, as time passed, this custom became more for the geisha and maiko.
Pilgrimage to 4 Shrines and Temples to Exorcise Evil
Aside from bean throwing, Kyoto has two unique tradition to celebrate Setsubun. One is Yomomairi. The kanji for Yomomairi 四方参り is read as four directions. It is a pilgrimage to the four shrines and temples located on the Kimon (demon’s gate) of Kyoto Imperial Palace. These four shrines and temples, Yoshida Shrine, Yasaka Shrine, Mibudera Temple, and Kitano Tenmangu Shrine are said to protect the four gates of the palace and purge the evil spirits. The tradition has been passed down for over a millennium, and is still believed that evil spirits (demons) first appear at Yoshida Shrine in the northeast, then Yasaka Shrine in the southeast, then over to Mibudera Temple in the southwest, and finally Kitano Tenmangu Shrine in the northwest. When taking a pilgrimage, make sure to go in that order since evil spirits have a direction of flow, and they have a proper order of rotation.
The Setsubun Festival has been held since the Muromachi period (1338–1573). It is a major event that attracts nearly 500,000 worshippers every year. In some years, stalls are set up from Higashioji Street to Yoshida Shrine, creating a festival-like atmosphere.Every year, on the day before the ceremony, there is an "Tsuina Ceremony (Oniyarai ritual)" where demons appear and fill the shrine grounds with many worshippers, and on the night of the ceremony, there is also a "Karosai Ceremony" to burn old money.
Yasaka Shrine, the headquarters of Gion Shrine, is known as "Gion-san" to many citizens and tourists. The gorgeous vermilion-colored buildings are eye-catching, and the main shrine is designated as a national treasure.Many women visit the shrine because it enshrines the gods of marriage and beauty, but it is also famous for its ability to ward off bad luck. A dedicatory dance by maiko and geiko is performed, followed by the spectacular lucky bean throwing.
Lucky bean throwing at Yasaka Shrine during Setsubun Festival<a href="https://photo53.com/" target="_blank" style="word-wrap:break-word;">京都フリー写真素材</a>
The Setsubun Festival at Mibudera Temple was started at the request of Emperor Shirakawa and has a long tradition of over 900 years. At the festival, a traditional Japanese theater, Kyogen, is performed. The theater is about the bean-throwing ceremony of Setsubun, one of the 30 programs of Mibu Kyogen. The play says that it is important for human beings to be diligent and devoted, and by doing so, they can get rid of demons (like misfortunes and disasters) and gain good fortune. Kyogen is held at this temple in Spring and Fall too. During the Setsubun Festival, visitors buy unglazed plates called "Houraku" and write the information about themselves and the families in black ink on that plate. These plates are then broken during the performance of Mibu Kyogen in April, and it is believed that breaking them will remove the evil spirits from the person.
Kitano Tenmangu Shrine
A gorgeous Setsubun Festival with various traditional performing arts is being held over at Kitano Tenmangu Shrine. The shrine is dedicated to Michizane Sugawara, the famous god of learning. As a power spot for academic success, it is worshipped by many students preparing for entrance exams. This shrine is the last place to visit during the pilgrimage of Yomomairi.
Lucky bean throwing at Kitano Tenmangu Shrine during Setsubun Festival<a href="https://photo53.com/" target="_blank" style="word-wrap:break-word;">京都フリー写真素材</a>อ่านเพิ่มเติม
- Traditional Bean Throwing Event “Setsubun”