Setsubun is a festival celebrated in the first days of February all over Japan. According to the Japanese lunar calendar, it marks the beginning of spring, and is also a kind of symbolic New Year’s Eve. Even if it’s not a national holiday, many people go to local shrines and temples to eat eho-maki (special Setsubun sushi rolls) and beans (which chase away evil spirits that bring misfortune and bad health), buy a couple of lucky charms and watch men dressed as demons scare small children around (which is, in my opinion, the highlight of the event!).
It’s also an occasion to socialize and have fun with friends! As I live near Yoshida shrine, THE place to celebrate Setsubun in Kyoto, it has became a tradition these past years to go there with my friends, pray for a happy year, eat something yummy from an impressive choice of yatai (mobile food stalls) and drink a cup of sake to warm up (the temperature this time of the year is chilling!).
This year, the festival happened just before the arrival of Covid-19, when the virus was still nothing more than a phantom menace.. I’m so glad we could enjoy our time of social un-distancing, and I hope that the tradition will continue next year.