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Taga Taisha Shrine's Setsubun Festival: Video Introduction

This video, titled "Good Sign 12th Broadcast: The Taga Taisha Shrine Setsubun Festival" (Good Sign 第12回放送 多賀大社節分祭), was uploaded by "Good Sign." The Setsubun Festival is held every February at Taga Taisha Shrine in Taga, Shiga, in Japan's Kansai region. This article will introduce "Oni no Mai" (鬼の舞, Dance of Demons) and the throwing of lucky beans and rice cakes.

Setsubun is an essential event in Japanese culture. Through the Setsubun Festival at Taga Taisha Shrine, visitors can learn the meaning of Setsubun's bean-throwing custom. Check out this 4-minute video showing the charms of Taga Taisha Shrine's Setsubun Festival.

What Is Setsubun? The Traditional Japanese Event and When It's Celebrated

Image of Setsubun oni masks and mamemaki
Photo:Setsubun oni masks and mamemaki

Setsubun means "division of the seasons," and refers to the day before the first day of spring, summer, autumn, and winter. Since the Edo period (1603-1868 A.D.), the day before "Risshun" (立春, the first day of spring) has been called Setsubun. In the old calendar, Setsubun fell on New Year's Eve, which was meant to drive away evil spirits and welcome in a good year before the New Year.

Mamemaki (豆まき) is a ritual in which an oni (Japanese ogre demon) appears and people throw beans at it while shouting "Oni wa soto, Fuku wa uchi!" (鬼は外福は内, Demons out, luck in!). It's a popular event at kindergartens and nursery schools in Japan.

It's also customary for Japanese families to eat "ehomaki," a thick sushi roll commonly made with 7 types of ingredients inside, representing the 7 Lucky Gods. It's believed that it's best to sit facing the lucky direction for the year (the direction of the god Toshitoku, who is in charge of the year's blessings), and sit quietly while eating. It's also customary to eat as many beans as one's age plus 1.

Setsubun is often thought to be held on February 3, but in some years is held on the 2nd or 4th because Risshun (the first day of spring) sometimes changes.

The God of Taga Taisha Shrine

Image of Taga Taisha Shrine, Shiga Prefecture
Photo:Taga Taisha Shrine, Shiga Prefecture

Taga Taisha Shrine is the largest shrine in Shiga Prefecture, and is known as Otaga-san. There are two sayings, "Oise Mairaba, Otaga e Maire" (If you visit Ise, visit Otaga), and "Oise, Otaga no Ko Degozaru" (I am Ise, child of Taga). The second saying is derived from the fact that Taga Taisha Shrine is dedicated to Izanagi and Izanami, the parents of Amaterasu, the deity of Ise Jingu, giving the shrines a parent-child relationship. Taga Taisha Shrine is also believed to be the god of longevity and marriage, and a protector against evil.

Visitors to the shrine can enjoy seasonal scenery, such as beautiful weeping cherry blossoms in spring and the autumn leaves of Okushoin Garden, which is associated with Toyotomi Hideyoshi. Taga Taisha Shrine is also a tourist attraction with many other points of interest, such as a sacred tree called Sanbonsugi located on the site where Izanagi is said to have descended from the heavens, Jumyoseki (the Stone of Longevity), a white stone on which you can write your prayers and offer to the shrine, and Otaga-jakushi, a replica of a ladle made for Empress Gensho when she was ill.

Oni Dances & Bean and Rice Cake Throwing – Highlights of Taga Taisha Shrine's Setsubun Festival

The highlight of the Setsubun Festival is the "Oni no Mai" dance by the Shimane Prefecture Inbara Kagura Troupe. Three oni (demons) appear accompanied by the sound of taiko drums and flutes. They glare at the audience with frightening expressions as they perform the dance, creating a powerful scene!
[Video] 1:51 - Oni no Mai

The two priests gradually drive the demons to the edge of the corridor and exterminate them while scattering beans and shouting "Oni wa soto, Fuku wa uchi" (Demons out, luck in!). This is a ritual to drive away evil spirits that bring bad luck.

After the demons are gone, beans and rice cakes are thrown from the stage by participants who share the same zodiac sign as the current year.
[Video] 3:00 - Lucky Beans and Lucky Rice Cakes Being Thrown

Zodiac Signs + Lucky Bean and Rice Cake Throwing: A Once-In-A-Lifetime Experience!

The lucky bean and rice cake throwing experience is for participants who share the same zodiac sign as the current year that will also turn 60 in that year. It's a unique, once-in-a-lifetime experience. An orientation session is held in advance. The application deadline is mid-December of the previous year.
The service fee to participate is as follows 32,000 yen for one person, 42,000 yen for couples. A prayer fee, group dinner, group photo, and souvenirs such as fans are also included. ※Details based on the 2021 event.

If you have family members who will celebrate their 60th birthday, maybe gift them with the chance to participate!

Summary of Taga Taisha Shrine's Setsubun Festival

Taga Taisha Shrine is a 10-minute walk from Taga Taisha-mae Station on the Ohmi Railway. Shiga Prefecture boasts a variety of tourist attractions, including Taga Taisha Shrine, Hikone Castle, and more. If you're planning a trip in February, be sure to add a Setsubun Festival to your itinerary!

Written By
Last Updated : Jan. 26, 2023
鈴木 正孝(Masataka Suzuki)
A writer born and raised in Asakusa, Tokyo who loves traveling and novels
Taga Taisha Shrine's Setsubun Festival – Purging the Year of Bad Luck With 'Mamemaki' Before Spring! Experience the Powerful Oniyarai Ritual at the Shrine in Shiga Prefecture!
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