Five Select Temples and Shrines in Tokyo with Setsubun Mamemaki Events
February 3 is Setsubun, which corresponds to the last day of the year under the lunar calendar. Evil spirits (oni) were thought to come out at the changing of seasons, so beans, which were thought to have the power to ward off evil, were scattered. Many people still scatter beans (usually roasted soybeans) at home, and many temples and shrines hold events to pray for people's safety and health. Here are five shrines and temples that hold mamemaki (bean-scattering) events in Tokyo on February 3.
Official Name: Kinryuzan Denboin Senso-ji
This is the first temple to hold a large-scale Setsubun event. It is a temple that was built in 628 and is said to be the oldest in Tokyo, and has 30 million visitors annually. The Kaminarimon Gate at the front has powerful statues of Fujin (wind god) and Raijin (thunder god) that are worth seeing. On Setsubun on February 3rd, mamemaki by local children is held at 10:00 am, followed by mamemaki by toshiotoko (men who were born under the same Chinese zodiac sign as the year according to Japanese custom) and the "Fukujyu-no-mai" dance ritual are held on a special stage at 12:00 pm and 2:00 pm. The event reaches its climax in the evening when a grand mamemaki by many famous personalities is held! Why not visit to pray for happiness throughout the year?
Official Name: San'en-zan Kodo in Zojoji
This temple, right near Tokyo Tower, is the family temple where the ancestral graves of the Tokugawa family which started the Edo shogunate are. The shogunate was a military government established by Tokugawa Ieyasu in 1603. A large-scale mamemaki event by toshiotoko and toshionna (men and women born under the year's zodiac sign), sumo wrestlers, rakugo storytellers, and entertainment personalities is held from around noon. It is significant that not only beans, but a variety of items such as mochi and sweets are scattered. It is said that at one time, luxurious gifts such as coupons for overnight stay for two at first-class hotels, were also scattered. Events held on a special stage, such as "mochitsuki," in which steamed sticky rice is pound into mochi, and "onimondo," an event where priests and children defeat the oni demons, are also highlights.
3. Ookunitama Jinja
This is a shrine in Fuchu, Tokyo. It was built about 1,900 years ago, and is one of the Five Shrines of Tokyo which are said to be the highest ranking shrines of the approximately 1,500 shrines in Tokyo. Here, mamemaki is held four times on Setsubun. At 11:00 am, a special prayer is held to ward off evil, and the mamemaki by entertainers and local mascot characters are held three times in the afternoon at 2:00 pm, 4:00 pm, and 6:00 pm.
4. Hie Jinja
This is one of the Five Tokyo Shrines, and is known as one of the top power spots in the Kanto region. The shrine helps with matchmaking, warding off evil, and improving work and career prospects. The Setsubun event held here is attended by sumo wrestlers and famous entertainers every year and attracts a large crowd. Once the sacred ritual that starts at 11:30 am in the main shrine is finished, the mamemaki begins on a special stage. Individual beans and beans in bags are scattered. If you get a winning bean, you can exchange it for a surprise gift.
5. Takao-san Yakuo-in
Official Name: Takao-san Yakuo-in Yuki-ji
This is a temple on Mt. Takao in Tokyo, which gets the largest number of hikers in the world. At this temple, a grand Setsubun event with entertainers and sumo wrestlers who have been active that year is held annually. The mamemaki starts early in the morning, at 5:00 am, and is held a total of six times. How about visiting in combination with a hike up the nature-rich Mt. Takao? It's only an hour away from central Tokyo.
Japan is very cold in February, but the events are held outside, so be sure to wear comfortable shoes and warm clothes. If you want to catch a lot of beans or see sumo wrestlers up close, try to get to the front of the crowd.
*Please note that the information in this article is from the time of writing or publication and may differ from the latest information.
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