Setsubun, a Japanese tradition

A lonely otaku celebrating Setsubun in his own mind. February 3 in Japan is a traditional holiday known as Setsubun. It is a day of demons, bean throwing, long rolls of rice and fish, and hot, musky sex. Like most Japanese words, Setsubun is untranslatable. By looking at its parts, however, we can get a sense of its actual meaning. Se means “position”, hence the sex. Tsubu means “a grain” or “a drop”, which gives us the beans. And finally n is a primal, sexual grunt of satisfaction. This naturally explains the rice.

Couples without children will spend the daylight hours of Setsbun not talking to each other. This is to build maximum tension for the evening where the traditional bean throwing occurs. Participants of the festivities will, once the sun goes down, throw beans at each other’s genitals until the sexual tension reaches its peak. At this point there is sexual intercourse. Afterwards, the partners stay up until the sun rises and then eat long rolls of sushi while facing away from each other. This is to ensure true love and profit for the partner’s sushi-making parents.

Those with children may have a hated family member put on a demon mask while they throw beans at them. The genital portion is largely ignored, unless the children are aged three, five or seven. In this case genital-kicking of the demon is heavily encouraged. This is due to the numbers three, five and seven all being homonyms for particular beans. While the children are abusing the disliked family member(s), the parents will have the traditional sex in a love hotel.

Fun fact! Despite its name, a love hotel does not require the people inside it to love each other.

Setsubun is not only for those with family and loved ones. A single person will ignore their digital waifu(wife) or hasubando(husband) all day. At night they will throw beans at their own genitals while yelling “Oni wa soto.”, which roughly translates to “Stop being so horny.” They may fantasize that their genitals are a particular anime character or animal. (See Figure 1 above.)

Setsubun is rich in tradition and also the only profitable time of the year for setsubean farmers, the hard-toilers who grow the tiny, hard and mostly inedible beans used in the festivities. Foreigners living in Japan are encouraged to buy beans, punch their own genitals and generally not bother anyone but foreigners who are not as cranky about living in a foreign country.