Cultural Newsflash – Setsubun (February 2013)

Setsubun festival Setsubun Tengu

Setsubun street parade                                                           Tengu in street

Tengu are supernatural creatures that appear in Japanese folklore. They are seen as protective or guardian spirits to be respected, if not somewhat feared. An annual Shimokitazawa Tengu Festival is held every winter at Shinryuji temple, a five minute walk from Shimokitazawa station. This is the festival of Setsubun in Shimokitazawa. Setsubun day marks the day before the beginning of each new season. Setsubun literally means “split the four each seasons”. Japanese people generally celebrate Setsubun in the winter as it marks the coming of spring and new life.

At Setsubun, beans are traditionally scattered as a way of expelling bad luck while people shout “Oni-wa-soto!” or “Demons outside!” to chase away evil spirits. However, at the Shimokitazawa Tengu Festival we scatter the beans while saying “Fuku-wa-uchi” or “Good Luck/Fortune inside” three times and never say “Demons outside”. The reason behind this is that it is believed that evil naturally dissipates in an atmosphere that is full of happiness.

Furthermore, the Tengu (a form of spirit or demon themselves) are believed to realize people’s wishes relating to things like family safety, prosperity in business, luck and success in exams. During “Tengu Dochu” parade, staff in large Tengu costumes and Crow Tengu costumes parade through the Shimokitazawa Shopping District while throwing “Fukumame” or “good luck beans.”

Photos and article courtesy of

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