Setsubun is a bean throwing festival celebrated on February 3rd or 4th and August 14th-15th, between 18:30 and 21:00, in which people throw beans at oni
, which are ogre-like demons that are supposed to cast evil on you. Traditionally only the eldest son of each family was supposed to throw the beans. Many people visit shrines to witness the throwing of the soybeans by the monks. An immense crowd also visits shrines to see celebrities, such as sumo wrestlers, throwing the beans. Another important Setsubun custom is hanging a hiragi
branch and a sardine head at your door. The sharp branch, in combination with the odorous sardine head, is supposed to keep any evil from entering.
The soybeans thrown at Setsubun are associated with luck and superstition. If you are one of the unlucky ages for your gender, you can regain that luck by wrapping soybeans and coins in white paper, then thssrowing the bundle away at a crossroad. Another superstition is if you eat three beans at the first thunderstorm of the year, you will not be struck by lightning for the rest of the year.
This is an event which has continued for 800 years and most of the lanterns have been donated by ordinary citizens with the exception of a handful which had been dedicated by samurai warriors in the Warring States Period. Such scenery lit only by candlelight takes you back into bygone days of no electricity and is full of mysticism. The reflections of the light on the river surface and the vermilion buildings of the shrine strike a beautiful harmony.