A behind-the-scenes look at the bean-throwing ceremony! What is the culture behind Japan’s strange festivals?

Setsubun. This is an auspicious event usually held on February 3rd to “drive out ogres and invite good fortune.

Although it would be considered a strange festival by today’s standards, it has been practiced in Japan for so long that it has become ingrained in the culture of the 21st century.

At the household level, roasted soybeans are scattered outside with a call of “Oni wa soto” (Ogres will come out) in the hope that bad things will not enter the house.

However, according to TV reports, some large shrines and temples have turned the bean throwing into a visitor attraction event, inviting celebrities and throwing beans from high places.

It may seem that they are treating the visitors as demons, but in fact it is meant to “share the beans with the visitors after praying for them.

This event is held at both shrines and temples, which shows how mixed up religions are in Japan.

I thought this type of event was limited to very large and famous temples and shrines. However, I happened to stop by a small shrine where a bean-throwing ceremony was being held, and for the first time in my life, I participated in one.

The atmosphere at the shrine grounds was very tense. A large number of police officers were stationed there. In addition, the government decided that they did not have enough manpower, so the fire department also came to the scene.

The visitors to the shrine were also a bit fussy. Everyone brought large plastic bags, carrier bags, or paper bags. They were taking home the scattered beans. What, are they taking so many beans home? I was overwhelmed by everyone’s enthusiasm.

I, on the other hand, was empty-handed. All I had was a shoulder bag full of coins. With this outfit, I stood out from the crowd.

Although it was past the scheduled time, the bean-throwing ceremony did not begin. I was told that the bean-throwing ceremony would be held in the shrine’s worship hall first, followed by the bean-throwing ceremony.

After waiting about 10 to 15 minutes, many people in suits came out of the worship hall. They were probably representatives of the shrine’s ujiko (parishioners) or local notables. Maybe even a politician. At least there were no celebrities that I knew of.

The bean throwing ceremony began.

A small zippered bag containing about 20 to 30 beans was scattered. The beans are scattered in small zip-top bags so that those who pick them up can easily take them home. As you might expect, the beans themselves are not scattered. If they were, they would simply become food for pigeons and crows.

The beans are mostly distributed in small bags, but sometimes some amazing ones fly in. Large bags of candy, cup noodles, and other assorted items. When the big ones fly in, the people who have come to get their share are in a state of excitement.

I had thought that everyone would leave after getting one bag of beans each, but that was not the case. Those with large bags of beans were not satisfied with just one bag of beans and were asking for more beans to be thrown over here and more candy. I wondered if this was how it was supposed to be.

I thought it would be a place where people would crowd around the food, but everyone who came was smiling and happily picking up beans. If there had been banknotes scattered around, there would have been fights over them, but they were not so desperate to get their hands on such a beautiful thing. I was impressed by the gentle atmosphere of the crowd as they caught the beans and sweets scattered around.

By the way, I got not only beans but also some ramune (soda) and retired from the event.



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