According to the Japanese lunar/solar calendar, this festival marks the last day of winter. It is also referred to as New Year’s Eve (even though it rarely coincides with the Lunar New Year since it is officially held on the day before the Japanese spring). Setsubun comes on either February 3 or 4, depending on the year.
A special ritual called mamemaki (literally “bean throwing”), is performed to cleanse away the evil of the former year and drive out disease-bringing evil spirits out for the year to come. People crowd the temples to throw roasted soybeans (fuku mame or “fortune beans’) to drive away imaginary devils, shouting, “oni wa so to” (get out demons) and “fu ku wa uchi” (come in happiness.)