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Introduction > Setsubun Festival at Utatsu Shrine: the lively “bean throwing” ceremony heralds the arrival of spring

Setsubun Festival at Utatsu Shrine: the lively “bean throwing” ceremony heralds the arrival of spring

Setsubun is a festival during which Japanese people throw beans to mark the change in seasons. This ancient tradition may well be unique to Japan.

The word setsubun literally means “seasonal division”, but it usually refers the day before the beginning of spring (often February 3rd) according to the traditional calendar. It was thought that the change in season caused evil spirits to appear, and it was believed that throwing beans would drive them away and ensure sound health for a year.

On February 3rd, Japanese people obey the custom of throwing beans in their homes, at temples or in shrines. I myself had thrown beans at home as a child, but I had never attended Setsubun at a shrine. So today, I visited Utasu Shrine to attend a Setsubun festival featuring a geisha dance.

When I got to the shrine, many people had already gathered in the grounds and were drinking sake offered by the shrine.

The bean throwing ceremony started after the geisha performance. When the geisha tossed fukumame, or “good luck beans”, up into the sky, everyone was vying to catch them. I myself tried to catch one, but caught in the jostling crowd I could barely move. Does that mean I failed to get good luck? Not at all, I felt very lucky to see the geisha dance and I had a wonderful time! If you are lucky enough to be in Kanazawa during Setsubun, make sure you pay a visit to Utasu Shrine!

Utasu Shrine, located near the Higashi Chaya District, is well worth a visit even outside of Setsubun festivities. I also recommend a stroll around the picturesque Utatsuyama Temple Area around Utasu shrine.
(A.T.)

For further information, see the following pages.
http://www.kanazawa-tourism.com/eng/event/event0.php
http://www.kanazawa-tourism.com/eng/guide/guide1_4.php?no=7
http://www.kanazawa-tourism.com/eng/guide/guide1_4.php?no=8