FESTIVALS February 2023


Setsubun literally means the parting of the seasons and it is the eve of the first day of each season (Rishun spring, Rikka summer, Rishu autumn, and Ritto winter). Gradually it came to indicate only the eve of Rishun. It was said that “bad air” rises at the changing of the seasons, so people would pray to avert trouble (yakuyoke). This custom was introduced from China in ancient times and became an annual event in the Japanese Court in the Heian era (8th -12th century). Scattering roasted beans, mame-maki, on Setsubun became popular among people in the Muromachi era (14th -16th century).
People scatter roasted beans at oni (devils) to drive them away from their houses. Beans have been used as a charm against demons since ancient times. A “praying the devil away ceremony” is held at many temples and shrines.


According to a popular Japanese belief, a person is apt to fall ill or to experience other misfortunes at certain ages called yaku-doshi during his/her life span. The common saying is that men enter these critical stages in their 25th, 42nd, and 61st calendar years and women in their 19th, 33rd, and 37th calendar years, and the most critical year in a person’s life (tai-yaku) is said to be age 42 for men (born in 1982 this year) and 33 for women (born in 1991). They may pray at temples and shrines to avoid an evil spirit. The years before and after the yaku-doshi are called mae-yaku and ato-yaku and precaution is called for.

Feb. 3 SETSUBUN-SAI Ishite-ji temple    (Tel. 089-977-0870)

Prayer services to Bodhisattva for safety and good health (goma-kito) are held to exorcise devils. Priests dressed as devils whack the evil spirits out of you with a long stick. People bring their old fortune papers and New Year’s decorations to be burned.

7:00 Yakuyoke kigan (prayer) starts.

13:30 Goma-kito Wooden tablets called goma-ki, with wishes or prayers written on them, are piled up and burned.

11:00 / 13:30 / 14:30 Mochi watashi (presented by hand), not mochi-maki

Feb. 3 SETSUBUNKAI YAKUYOKE TAISAI ((Warding off evils Festival) 9:00-17:00 Henjo-in temple Hama, Kikuma-cho, Imabari City

Henjo-in temple in Imabari City and Yakuo-ji temple in Tokushima Prefecture are the two most famous Yakuyoke temples in Shikoku. Tel. 0898-54-3128

9:00-17:00 Yakuyoke-kito

 12:30  Special Goma- kito

All the events, such as mame-maki, mochi-maki, and the Onigawara
hono (dedication) ritual are canceled due to the pandemic.

Transportation: Take the JR local train bound for Imabari and get off at Kikuma. From the station it takes about 7 minutes on foot.

Feb. 8 HARI-KUYO (Memorial Service for Needles)

Hari-kuyo started in the 18th century to give women a break in those days of danson-johi (dominance of men over women). Broken or old needles were placed at a small altar and people gave thanks to the needles’ faithful service. Women did not do needlework on that day. This traditional event has been handed down as an annual event of schools for tailors, dress and kimono makers. In Matsuyama it is observed at Matsuyama Business College where teachers and students of the fashion-beauty course stick about 1,300 needles used in dress-making classes into large konnyaku (devil’s tongue) cakes at an altar, giving thanks to them and praying for better sewing skills. The priest of Shoju-ji chants a sutra. Later the needles are put in Harizuka (a burial mound for needles) at the temple.

(National Foundation Day) National holiday
This holiday was formerly called Kigensetsu, which started in 1872 (Meiji 5) to commemorate the accession to the throne of Emperor Jimmu who is said to be the first emperor of Japan. At that time this day was recognized as the ‘birthday’ of Japan, but after World War the name Kigensetsu was banned due to its nationalistic connotations. In 1966 this holiday was revived as Kenkokukinen-no-hi.

Feb. 23 TENNO TANJOBI (Emperor’s Birthday) National holiday

Reiwa Emperor was born in 1960. We celebrate this day in hopes of his longevity.

NOTES: Events might be canceled or postponed to prevent spread of the novel coronavirus infection. Please check the latest information.