Setsubun at Nakayamadera Temple

Setsubun (節分) is a holiday that marks the start of Spring, and includes some fun traditions that both children and adults enjoy. The most common way to celebrate setsubun is at home, with a family or group of people throwing roasted soy beans at someone designated as a demon (and wearing a demon mask). The bean-casters yell “Oni wa soto! Fuku wa uchi!” (“Out with the demons! In with good luck!”) which is supposed to ensure good luck in the new season by driving away evil. People who celebrate setsubun also face a designated “auspicious direction” (恵方) and eat an entire ehōmaki sushi roll without talking. Due in large part to commercial marketing by convenience and grocery stores, the custom of eating ehomaki has spread all around Japan in recent years, far beyond its origin of western Japan (particularly Osaka area).P1050008P1040990 If you wanna try the other setsubun traditions too, I recommend heading to one of the many temples where a special ceremony is held. I went to a particularly large temple in Takarazuka City called Nakayama-dera (accessible from Nakayama Kannon Station on the Hankyu Takarazuka Line). The Nakayama-dera celebration has a particularly unique tradition that involves local stars from the local all-female musical theater performance group Takarazuka Revue. The musical trope is known throughout Japan and is also attracting attention overseas with their all-female performances of popular musicals like “The Count of Monte Cristo”, “West Side Story” and “Romeo and Juliet”.P1040995P1040998What makes Nakayama-dera’s setsubun ceremony truly wacky is that it also involves three yurukyara: mascot characters in costume designed to appeal to children. What do you get with Nakayama-dera’s combination of costume characters, people dressed as demons, Takarazuka Revue’s actress/singer stars (dressed in traditional garb), and local religious, business, and media officials? Crowds of spectators (of course!). Men, women, and children come from all around to hear Takarazuka Revue’s chanting of religious songs, demon-chasing performance, and roasted soybean casting. I hope you enjoy eating an ehōmaki afterwards too.P1050006P1040966

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