Photo Credit Yasaka Junja Setsubun Sai

Yasaka Shrine Setsubun Festival

The Setsubun Festival at Yasaka Shrine is a dynamic event that combines tradition and spectacle. Held on the first day of spring, this Japanese custom aims to drive away evil spirits and bring good luck.

The festival features a fascinating history, dating back to the Nara period, and is highlighted by the captivating performances of Maiko, apprentice geisha. These talented dancers, adorned in stunning kimonos, symbolize wishes for prosperous harvests and national peace.

Photo Credit Yasaka Junja Setsubun Sai
Photo Credit Yasaka Junja Setsubun Sai

With unique charms and offerings, a bean-throwing ritual, and a lavish lottery, the Setsubun Festival at Yasaka Shrine offers an immersive experience that captures the essence of Japanese culture.

Key Takeaways

  • The Setsubun Festival at Yasaka Shrine is a traditional Japanese custom to drive away evil spirits and bring good luck.
  • The festival traces its origins back to the Nara period and started as a ceremony in imperial palaces to dismiss demons believed to carry plague.
  • Maiko perform elegant dances called Buyo-hono during the festival, symbolizing wishes for prosperous harvests and national peace.
  • Yasaka Shrine offers unique charms and offerings during Setsubun, including Mitsurugi-mamori, Fukumame, and Kushifuda, to provide protection and invite prosperity.

History and Origins

The Setsubun Festival at Yasaka Shrine traces its origins back to the Nara period and started as a ceremony in imperial palaces to dismiss demons believed to carry plague. This festival holds great significance and meaning in Japanese culture. It is a time to drive away evil spirits and welcome good luck for the coming year.

Over time, the tradition spread to public households and evolved into the bean-throwing ritual known as Mamemaki. The festival has also seen evolution and adaptation with the inclusion of Maiko performances. These graceful dances, performed by Maiko from geisha districts like Gion Kobu and Pontocho, add liveliness and beauty to the festivities. The dances symbolize wishes for prosperous harvests and national peace, further enriching the meaning of the festival.

Evolution and adaptation have ensured that the Setsubun Festival remains a beloved and cherished tradition in Japan.


Japan Rail Pass Price Hike
Note: The Japan Rail Prices Are Going Up A Massive 62% In October 2023, But there’s still time to snap up the old prices. Klook has pledged to sell at the old prices up to September 30th. This will let you activate your pass up until  December 28th 2023.

Klook.com

Read more About it here.


Maiko Performances

During the Setsubun festival at Yasaka Shrine, Maiko from geisha districts like Gion Kobu, Gion Higashi, Pontocho, and Miyagawacho participate in elegant dances called Buyo-hono. These traditional dances hold great cultural significance and add a touch of elegance to the festival atmosphere.

As the Maiko gracefully move across the stage, their colorful kimonos swirl around them, captivating the audience’s attention. The intricate footwork and graceful gestures of the dancers create a mesmerizing performance that transports onlookers to a different time and place.

The dances symbolize wishes for prosperous harvests and national peace, embodying the hopes and dreams of the community. The audience is left in awe as they witness the beauty and artistry of these traditional dances, a true highlight of the Setsubun festival at Yasaka Shrine.

Charms and Offerings

Crafting unique commodities with sacred power, Yasaka Shrine offers participants charms and offerings during the Setsubun festival. These sacred relics hold a deep symbolic meaning and are believed to bring good luck and protection to those who possess them.

One of the offerings available is the Mitsurugi-mamori, created from sacred swords to shield bearers from misfortune. This powerful talisman acts as a spiritual armor, warding off evil spirits and ensuring the safety and well-being of the bearer.

Another offering is the Fukumame, which are lucky beans that have the ability to banish foul spirits and invite prosperity into one’s life. These beans are thrown during the bean-throwing ritual, symbolizing the casting away of negativity.

Lastly, the Kushifuda is a protective amulet that promises peace within families throughout the year. These charms and offerings serve as reminders of the sacred traditions and beliefs associated with the Setsubun festival, allowing participants to connect with the spiritual essence of the event.

Bean-Throwing Ritual

Participants eagerly await the bean-throwing ritual, as it is a highlight of the Setsubun festival at Yasaka Shrine. The ritual holds great ritual significance and cultural symbolism, representing the act of driving away evil spirits and welcoming good fortune.

Here are three key aspects of the bean-throwing ritual:

  1. Expelling Evil: During the ritual, roasted soybeans are thrown into the crowd, symbolizing the expulsion of evil spirits and bad luck from the participants’ lives. As the beans fly through the air, people energetically shout ‘Oni wa soto! Fuku wa uchi!’ which means ‘Demons out! Happiness in!’ This spirited chant adds to the festive atmosphere and reinforces the symbolic meaning of the ritual.
  2. Invoking Good Fortune: The act of catching the thrown beans is believed to bring good luck and prosperity for the coming year. Participants eagerly scramble to catch as many beans as possible, with the belief that the more beans they catch, the more fortune they will receive. This lively scramble adds an element of excitement and competition to the ritual.
  3. Community Bonding: The bean-throwing ritual is not only about personal luck and fortune but also about fostering a sense of community and unity. People of all ages and backgrounds come together to participate in this tradition, creating a shared experience that strengthens social bonds. The joy and laughter that fill the air during the ritual reflect the spirit of togetherness and celebration.

Special Performances and Lottery

The special performances and lottery add an extra layer of excitement and anticipation to the Setsubun celebration at Yasaka Shrine. As the festival reaches its peak, the crowd gathers in eager anticipation for the stunning performances by the maiko and geiko.

Dressed in exquisite kimonos, they grace the stage with their elegant dances, their every movement captivating the audience. The atmosphere is electric as the maiko and geiko from different districts showcase their talents, each performance more enchanting than the last.

After each performance, beans are thrown into the crowd, symbolizing the banishment of evil spirits. But the excitement doesn’t end there. Lucky bean bags, available for purchase, come with a winning lottery ticket for a chance to win grand prizes.

The air is filled with hope and anticipation as participants eagerly await their fate, hoping to be the lucky winners of the night.

Frequently Asked Questions

How long has the Setsubun Festival at Yasaka Shrine been celebrated?

The Setsubun Festival at Yasaka Shrine has been celebrated for centuries, tracing its origins back to the Nara period. Over time, it has evolved from a ceremony in imperial palaces to a public tradition of bean-throwing rituals and lively performances.

Are there any specific rituals or ceremonies performed during the Setsubun Festival?

During the Setsubun Festival at Yasaka Shrine, various rituals and ceremonies take place. One of the most prominent is the bean-throwing tradition, where attendees throw beans to ward off evil spirits and invite good luck. This tradition has a long history dating back to the Nara period.

What is the significance of the Maiko performances during the festival?

The Maiko dances during the festival are a significant highlight, showcasing their graceful movements and traditional costumes. They symbolize wishes for prosperity and peace, adding liveliness and elegance to the festivities.

Can anyone participate in the bean-throwing ritual and lottery?

Anyone can participate in the bean-throwing ritual and lottery at the Setsubun Festival. By purchasing lucky bean bags for 300 yen, they have a chance to win grand prizes while joining in the festive tradition.

What are some examples of the luxury prizes that can be won in the festival’s lottery?

Luxury prizes in the Setsubun Festival lottery include home appliances and works of art. Participants have a chance to win these grand prizes by purchasing lucky bean bags and receiving a winning lottery ticket.

The Sum Up

To sum it up, the Setsubun Festival at Yasaka Shrine is a captivating and ancient tradition that holds great significance in Japanese culture.

With its rich history dating back to the Nara period, the festival continues to drive away evil spirits and bring good luck to those who participate.

The enchanting performances by the Maiko, the offering of unique charms and blessings, the thrilling bean-throwing ritual, and the opportunity to win luxurious prizes in the lottery all contribute to the vibrant and festive atmosphere of this cherished event.

It is a celebration that truly embodies the spirit of prosperity, protection, and unity within families and the nation as a whole.