K-12 Outreach for Japanese Culture: 2月 / February

This guide is designed for K to 12 instructors who teach Japanese culture and traditions.

節分 / Setsubun


節分というと思い浮かぶのは「豆まき」であろう。豆をまくのにも理由がある。節分に豆をまくこと「追儺」は、悪いものや邪気を払うという思いが込めら れている。なぜ「豆」なのかというと、「魔を滅する」の文字をとって「魔滅」、そこから豆を使うようになったと言われている。追儺は別名、鬼やらい、なやらい、鬼走り、役神送りなどとよばれ、寺社によっては鬼役などを登場させ賑やかに祝う。



  • 年男(としおとこ)とは?


  • 恵方とは?


In the beginning of February, it is considered to be the time of seasonal change called risshun. Today, Risshun is celebrated by the holiday, Setsubun.

Mamemaki is probably the first thing a Japanese person would think of when mentioned about Setsubun. Mamemaki is the act of throwing dried soy beans inside and outside of a house to drive out any bad sprits away from the house and family. This act or ritual of driving out the bad spirits is called tsuina. The reason why people use dried beans comes from the phrase, “Ma o Messuru (perish the bad spirit).” People abbreviate this phrase to Ma-Me, and mame are beans in Japanese. Tsuina has several other names, such as oni-yarai, nara-yai, oni-bashiri, yakugami-okuri. This ritual is closely related to the oni, Japanese ogres, and many shrines and temples celebrate Setsubun with tsuina ceremony with actors in oni costumes.

The tsuina ceremony is recited with a chant along with the throwing of the dried beans. The most common chant is “Oni wa soto, fuku wa uchi (devils out, good luck in).” However, in some regions, the oni is considered to be the good spirit and changes the phrase to “Oni wa uchi, fuku wa uchi (devils in, good luck in).” It is not as common now, but the ritual is supposed to be done by the head of the household or the toshio.

It is considered good luck to eat the same number of bean as your age. And in some regions, people eat a big sushi roll called futomaki or ehō-maki. Since futomaki is a roll, people believe that good luck and fortune will roll into their lives if they eat a futomaki. The tradition is to eat the futomaki in silence while facing the ehō or that year's fortuitous direction. There are still no good explanation to why people cannot speak during this tradition.

  • What is toshiotoko?

Toshiotoko are the male family members with the same zodiac symbol as that year.

  • What is ehō?

Ehō is the direction that is considered to be good luck; the direction is different each year.

節分の豆と鬼の仮面 / Dried beans for Setsubun and Oni Masks
舞妓さんと年男の豆まき / Mamemaki by a Maiko and Toshiotoko

太巻き・恵方巻き / Futomaki ・ Ehō-maki (the food items inside can be anything)

Books Related to this Page

節分と和菓子 / Setsubun to Wagashi (Setsubun and Sweets)

節分 <Setsubun>


  • お多福ってなに?


On February 3rd, Japanese people celebrate Setsubun. On this day, people throw dried beans towards the oni or the devil. Because of this tradition, many wagashi or traditional sweets are made with various types of beans. In addition to beans, masu (traditional wooden measuring cup) and two characters, the otafuku and oni, are also used for confectionery decorations during the month of February. 

  • What is otafuku?

During the Heian era (794-1185), otafuku meant beauty, and has been the symbol of Japanese beauty. The otafuku face is usually a pale face with larger cheeks. Unfortunately, in our recent culture, otafuku has a negative meaning, such as plain-looking or ugly. During Setsubun, the otafuku and oni are usually seen as a pair. Perhaps the otafuku is used during this time because of the inclusion of the word, fuku, which is Japanese for luck, and is often chanted with the phrase, "Oni wa soto, fuku wa uchi" during this time.  

お多福型の和菓子 / ​Wagashi inspired by Otafuku (buns with sweet azuki bean paste inside)

More about Setsubun

Documentary about Setsubun from NHK (Japanese National TV station) in English.

節分の歌 / Setsubun no Uta (Setsubun's Song)

鬼は外 福は内 (Oni wa soto Fuku wa uchi)

ぱらっ ぱらっ ぱらっ ぱらっ (Para para para para)

豆の音 (Mame no oto)

鬼はこっそり逃げていく(Oni wa kossori nigeteiku)


鬼は外 福は内 (Oni wa soto Fuku wa uchi)

ぱらっ ぱらっ ぱらっ ぱらっ (Para para para para)

豆の音 (Mame no oto)

早くお入り、福の神 (Hayaku ohaeri, fuku no kami)


Devils out, Good luck in

Para para para para (*onomatopoeia for the sound of the beans hitting the floor*)

The sound of beans

The devil secretly escapes 


Devils out, Good luck in

Para para para para (*the sound of the beans*)

The sound of beans

Hurry up and come in, the God of luck