What Is Setsubun?
Setsubun (“seasonal division”), is a traditional event marking the official beginning of spring, according to the Japanese lunar calendar. Though not a national holiday, Setsubun is widely celebrated across Japan and is especially enjoyed by Japanese children. This year, Setsubun falls on Monday, February 3rd, and many will attend the annual festivities at shrines and temples.
The most common Setsubun ritual is the throwing of roasted beans around one’s house and at temples and shrines across the country. When throwing the beans, you are supposed to shout “Oni wa soto! Fuku wa uchi!” (“Devils out, happiness in”). The beans are thought to symbolically purify the home by driving away the evil spirits that bring misfortune and bad health with them. Then, as part of bringing luck in, it is customary to eat roasted soybeans, one for each year of one’s life.
The custom in Kansai area is eating uncut makizushi called ehomaki (lit “lucky direction roll”) in silence on Setsubun while facing the year’s lucky compass direction, determined by the zodiac symbol of that year. This custom started in Osaka, but in recent years ehomaki can be purchased at most stores and it is has become a part of Setsubun tradition throughout Japan.
When eating fortune rolls, people face the lucky direction of the year (eho) and make wishes. Tradition states that you must eat the sushi roll uncut, in one continuous go, in complete silence. It also gives you time to contemplate your thoughts and quiet down the noise of modern life.
A New Way to Enjoy Setsubun
A new form of enjoying Setsubun has emerged recently – instead of eating ehomaki while facing the lucky direction, people have started drinking sake this way. This practice is called “ehonomi” (lit. “lucky direction drinking”), and it is said to be a new way to celebrate Setsubun for grown-ups. The idea is the same as eating ehomaki – drinking sake facing the lucky direction is believed to invite good luck for the new season and fulfill your wishes. This year, the lucky direction is west southwest. If north is measured as a 0° azimuth, then west southwest will be around 255 degrees from north.
Setsubun is also the season when a new brew of sake becomes available. Tochigi Prefecture has cooperated with breweries, liquor wholesalers, and retailers based in the prefecture, and has been running ehonomi campaign since 2016 in an attempt to increase local sake consumption in Tochigi Prefecture.
We invite you to try ehonomi this Setsubun! The method of ehonomi is very simple. You can do it anywhere just by preparing your favorite sake and sake cup. Just turn to the lucky direction and drink in silence while thinking of your wishes.
The Recommended Sake Is Eikun Kotosennen Junmai Ginjo
This is an award-winning sake with high quality ingredients from Kyoto prefecture. Water comes from Fushimi which is distinguished by having access to spring water of exceptional quality. This water produces elegant, not too overly sweet, and soft sake. It is made with Iwai rice which gives this sake fragrance and nice mouthfeel.
This sake is sure to bring good luck into your house and fulfill your wishes!