Thursday, 22nd January 2015
In Events In Japan,
Setsubun gets underway in Tokyo
Temples across Japan - and especially in the Kansai region - are set to be celebrating Setsubun at the start of February, and if you're in Tokyo for this special time of year, there are many large-scale festivals that you could well be attending.
Setsubun, which is a celebration of the first day of spring, gets underway on February 3rd with major celebrations at the spectacular Sensoji Temple, the historical Nishi-Arai Daishi and the Gojo Tenjinja Shrine in Ueno Park, among others. While these festivities tend to feature bean tossing and chanting as standard, each has its own little nuances and twists on the tradition.
Renowned for the red paper lantern that adorns its entrance, Sensoji is one of the best places in Tokyo to ring in Setsubun. While tradition depicts that people shout "Demons go away!" during the bean tossing ritual, attendees before the Buddhist deity of mercy which can be found at the temple shout "Long life and good fortune, come in!" because there are no demons before the Kannon.
The Fukuju-no-mai Dance (Seven Deities of Good Fortune Dance) is one of Sensoji's three most famous rituals. After it is performed, famous performers and cultural figures connected with Asakusa toss beans and bring liveliness to the precincts as part of the "Asakusa Kannon Performer and Cultural Figure Setsubun Event" (hosted by the Asakusa Tourism Federation).
This traditional event has been taking place at the Nishi-Arai Daishi temple for many years. Perhaps its most note-worthy inclusion is the burning of old Daruma figures, observed solemnly by Buddhist monks, who then carry out impressive Sutra readings. The bean scattering takes place in the Hon-den. Visitors are also advised to visit the San-Mon road where there are many stalls selling rice cakes, souvenirs and lucky charms on the first day of spring.
The ceremony of "Daruma Kuyo" is full of solemnity starting with the entrance of Buddhist monks in the style of mountain priest blowing a conch-shell horn, followed by monks in Buddhism garment, into the garden of the Komyo-den where old Daruma figures are gathered.
Ueno Park has long been considered one of the most beautiful parts of Tokyo. Between the folds of green lies the Gojo Tenjinja Shrine, which holds its Ukera Shinto ritual every Setsuban in honour of the deity Yakusojin. A question and answer ritual with demons, ukera burning and bean tossing are among the activities visitors can expect to observe, as well as a Hikimeshiki ritual designed to drive out evil spirits.
Photographs in this immensely picturesque part of Tokyo are an absolute necessity.