Celebrate Setsubun in Kyoto with the "Yomo-mairi"!

Celebrate Setsubun in Kyoto with the
Setsubun is the New Year's Eve of the old lunar calendar. In Kyoto, the "Setsubun Festival" is held at the many temples and shrines.
At the Setsubun Festival, you can enjoy a variation of shows, including elegant dances by the maiko, the "onitaiji" where people scatter roasted soybeans to drive out evil spirits, and the traditional Kyogen play.
This time I would like to introduce the Setsubun Festivals of 4 shrines in Kyoto famous for "Yomo-mairi".

| First of all, what is "Yomo-mairi"?

In Kyoto, there are 4 temples and shrines (Yoshida Shrine, Mibu-dera Temple, Kitano Tenmangu Shrine, and Yasaka Shrine) located in four directions from the Imperial Palace.
Visiting all four of these temples and shrines is called the "Yomo-mairi".
On the night of Setsubun, it is said that the evil spirit called the "oni" first appears at the gate of the Yoshida Shrine, gets driven out, and then runs away from the Yasaka Shrine to the Mibu-dera temple, and finally gets trapped inside the Kitano Tenmangu Shrine.
How about welcoming the New Year with "Yomo-mairi" that will drive away evil spirits and invite good luck?

1. The Setsubun Festival of Yoshida Shrine, where the evil spirit appears.

When it comes to the Setsubun Festivals of Kyoto, you cannot miss the Yoshida Shrine. Every year, the shrine becomes filled with about 500,000 visitors. The shrine is a recommended spot for testing your luck for the New Year, where you can buy a protective charm that comes with a lottery ticket for luxurious prizes.
  • もとぶ八重岳
  • もとぶ八重岳
On February 2nd, a ritual called the "Oniyarai" is performed from 18:00. This main event of the Setsubun festival for driving out evil spirits has been performed since the beginning of the Heian period.
At the ritual, golden heroes with four eyes called the "Hososhi" make an entrance accompanied by children holding torches. Once the "Onmyoji", a professional practitioner of Japanese occultism, finishes reading an address to the gods, the "Oni" begin to run around the hall of the shrine.
Little by little, the Oni are hunt down by the "hososhi", and finally the Oni are chased out of the shrine. After the courtier fires arrows, the ritual comes to an end.
【Reception Hours】9:00~17:00 (Also the opening hours of the shrine office)
【Access】About 5 minutes by foot from the Kyodai Seimon-mae bus station

2. The gorgeous dance of the Setsubun Festival at Yasaka Shrine

The Setsubun Festival of Yasaka Shrine is gorgeous. At this festival, the Geisha and Maiko of the 4 entertainment districts of Gion scatter beans from the shrine's hall, along with "toshiotoko" and "toshionna" (men and women who were born under the same zodiac sign as that of the current year).
  • 八坂神社
  • 八坂神社
Here you can also buy parched beans called "fukumame", which means "lucky beans", that come with a prize. Perhaps the Oni may be unexpectedly enjoying the gorgeous Setsubun as well.

3. Traditional plays and performances at the Mibu-dera Temple's Setsubun Festival

The Mibu-dera Temple was the headquarters of the Shinsengumi, the military force of Kyoto, in the last days of the Tokugawa Shogunate. At the Setsubun Festival of this temple, you can watch performances of "Horaku Wari" and the "Mibu Kyogen". Horaku Wari is a ceremony where people write the gender and age of family members on an unglazed plate called the Horaku. During the "Mibu Kyogen", these plates are smashed to exorcize evil spirits.
In the "Mibu Kyogen", there is a program called "Setsubun" that is performed 8 times a day, and anyone can watch it for free. This play of no lines where everything is acted out by movement is definitely a fascinating one.
On the 4th, a Japanese dish called "zenzai" is passed out for free. During the festival, the shrine is filled with many events. Even the Oni might not be able to resist staying for a long time.
【Address】Bo-jo Bukkoji-kita-iru, Nakagyo, Kyoto
【Hours】 8:00~17:00
【Price】Free to enter the shrine grounds
    Adults: 200 yen, Elementary, Middle, and High School: 100 yen
【Access】About 10 minutes by foot from Randen Shijo-Omiya Station or Hankyu Line Omiya Station

4. The Kitano Tenmangu Shrine where the Oni is finally caught

The Setsubun Fesitval of Kitano Tenmangu Shrine is held on February 3rd. During this festival, you can enjoy many events such as the Japanese dancing performed by the Geisha and Maiko, and bean scattering.
Usually during the bean scattering, people chant "Demons out, Happiness in", but because the Oni becomes trapped in this shrine and not driven out, they do not chant "Demons out". All of the ceremonies are held at the Kagura Hall of the shrine, so it is recommended that you go there early before it becomes filled with people.
【Address】】Kitano Tenmangu Shrine Office, Bakuro, Kamigyo, Kyoto
【Access】JAbout 30 minutes from JR Kyoto Station by bus, and right by the Kitano Tenmangu-mae Bus Stop
What do you think about spending a fun Setsubun by going on the "Yomo-mairi" to ward off evil spirits?

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