Setsubun Festival

DatesFebruary 3rd
Opening Hours15:00 - 16:00
Location /
Getting There
Hokkaido Shrine. 10 minute walk from Maruyama station

474 Miyagaoka, Chuo, Sapporo, Hokkaido 064-0959

Hokkaido shrine members

Ever since the days old, there have been festivals and rituals to expel the evil spirits. In Japan, this event is called the ‘Setsubun’ and is held on the 3rd of February. The name, ‘Setsubun’ refers to the day before the changing of each season. In ancient times, it was common belief that the changing of the seasons brought with it good luck and bad luck. In order to expel the bad and bring in the good, beans are thrown at these evil forces, represented as an ‘oni’ or demon. While the beans are thrown, “Oni wa soto!” is shouted. This translates to “demon out!”

Shrine musician

The Setsubun happens all over Japan, in peoples homes. The biggest Setsubun festival can be seen at Hokkaido shrine in Sapporo. The event is held in the courtyard. Priests and flute players come up onto a raise platform and address the crowd. After this, two ‘Oni’ (one red and one green) will make their way to the stage where they will parade around, wielding their clubs. Once they have been ‘banished’ then thirty or so members of the shrine will come to the stage.

Throwing of the mochi

It is here the fun really begins. The members will start throwing out packets of beans into the eager crowd, so people can take them home. After this, they will then throw out ‘mochi’ which are Japanese rice cakes. If you want any of these goodies, it’s best you get to the front of the stage. Once this is finished, a priest wearing a traditional mask will walk around blessing people, by tapping them on the head. This event is very quick and is over in about 1 hour, but this event, in the surroundings of the shrine makes a great spot for some photos of Japanese culture!

The Rokkatei hut

This event is held in February which is one of the coldest months in Hokkaido. Be sure to rug up and keep warm! If you are feeling the chill, there is a nice little ‘Rokkatei’ hut near the shrine on the grounds. Rokkatei is a famous sweets store in Hokkaido. There are multiple locations around Hokkaido. The store at the Hokkaido shrine is called the Jingujaya Store. This store sells traditional small sweets. Here you can sit down in a heated room, sip on some hot tea and have some Japanese cakes!

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Hokkaido Guide contributor and editor. Keen photographer with a love of travel, the great outdoors and all things Hokkaido, Japan. Matt Holloway is a professional photographer and holds exhibitions around Sapporo, Hokkaido and Sydney Australia.