Setsubun at Gokoku Shrine 2020: Photo and Video
“Oni wa Soto, Fuku wa Uchi” – images from a spectacle of demons and lucky beans at Hiroshima’s Gokoku-jinja.
Here are some photos and a video collage from the February 3rd 2020 event. There are many fun Setsubun traditions in Japan such as someone playing an Oni in the house and everyone throwing beans at the “demon” while saying Oni Wa Soto (Out with the Devil) Fuku Wa Uchi (Bring in the Luck). Others enjoy eating as many lucky roasted soybeans as you are years old. Others try to eat an entire Maki roll of sushi without talking or stopping.
At Hiroshima shrines, there are events like this one held each year at Gokoku shrine to mark the end of winter and try to catch some good luck.
The Gokoku Setsubun festival started around 3 pm on February 3rd (Monday) with a blessing of participants inside the shrine.
About an hour later, my favorite part of the event took place as an archer ceremoniously defeats a demon drawn on a target. This Japanese Kyudo archery shooting of a Devil on a target seems to be a Gokoku original.
This year a gracefully fierce female archer took sure aim and marked the demon diagonally across the face.
At 3pm it wasn’t very busy, but the crowd started building around the red and white striped tower in the center of the shrine grounds slowly and by 4 there was a large group waiting for lucky beans. Announcements were made about safety and giving priority to the children in the audience to make sure everyone shared the lucky bounty. Then the shrine staff and invited guests climbed the stairs and stood atop the tower with boxes of snacks to throw.
Once the throwing began, every throw coincided with chants of Oni wa Soto, Fuku wa Uchi . Small packets of lucky Setsubun soybeans and other small packets of snacks were launched high into the air above the crowd. People raised their hands happily grabbing for the lucky snacks.
The crowd at the event was a mix of locals, visitors, Japanese, international, and people of all ages. The shrine staff were all very welcoming and generous to host this free event each year. It’s a great event worth seeking out if you are free in the early afternoon on Setsubun each year.