Setsubun-sai at Heian Jingū｜節分祭
Setsubun is celebrated in Japan on February 3rd, marking the day before spring with various traditions meant to drive away evil spirits and bad luck and cleanse the home and family for the coming year. Shrines and temples around Japan hold special festivals for the public to come together and participate as a community, and several of these festivals are quite famous in Kyoto. One place you can go to take part in Setsubun is Heian Jingū (Heian Shrine).
Heian Jingū's Setsubun-sai starts at 13:00 with priests holding a sacred Shinto ritual at the inner sanctuary, leaving offerings to the gods on the altar, reading aloud prayers, and performing purifications. At 14:00, people representing warriors, onmyōji diviners, and the demon-quelling oni called Hōsōshi participate in the Daina no Gi, an exorcism once performed at the Imperial Palace in the Heian period. Men wearing fearsome ogre masks burst into the shrine and "terrorize" the assembled people from the courtyard, making their way to the main hall veranda where the oni leader does a victorious dance. However, shrine parishioners appear to banish the oni with lucky beans in a tradition called mamemaki (bean throwing), chasing them back out the shrine gates shouting "oni wa soto, fuku wa uchi" ("bad luck out, good luck in"). The people who came to see the ritual then gather around the main hall in the hopes of catching some of the packets of lucky beans thrown out into the crowd by priests, parishioners, and geiko and maiko, before the day wraps up with an ōhitaki shinji fire ritual at 16:00.
You have a lot of choices when it comes to Setsubun rituals to attend in Kyoto, but if you are interested in seeing an interesting and dynamic ritual you may want to head to Heian Jingū!
Things to See/Do