Jan. 25, 2022 UPDATE
Celebrate Setsubun with demons, beans, and maiko!
Part 1

Kyoto’s BIG Setsubun Festival! 4 Tips on How to Enjoy Yoshida Shrine’s Festival!

Setsubun in Kyoto means Setsubun festivals. On the day of Setsubun almost all of Kyoto’s temples and shrines have Setsubun festivals. A festive mood runs through Kyoto when demons are driven off and beans are thrown in the temples and shrines. If you ask a person from Kyoto “What is Setsubun in Kyoto?” their answer is going to be Yoshida Shrine’s Setsubun festival. This festival is held every year for three days and half a million people go there! This festival is an event we from Sharing Kyoto can heartily recommend to Setsubun first-timers and veterans alike! In part one we are going to thoroughly analyze Yoshida Shrine’s BIG festival and give you four tips on how to enjoy it!
Yoshida Shrine’s Festival is the Most Fun at Night!
Yoshida Shrine
During the Setsubun festival Yoshida Shrine is bustling with people all day long. At night there are even more people and the festival gets livelier still. Yoshida Shrine is located half way up Yoshida Mountain, so normally the shrine is very quiet. But during the Setsubun festival frightfully many people go up to the shrine, so you are surrounded by a festive atmosphere.
yoshida shirine
The road to the shrine is very narrow and gets even narrower the closer you get to the temple, there are really many people trying to get to the temple and lining this road on both sides are food stalls making the road even narrower. This is an interesting sight you can’t normally see at Yoshida Shrine. It is not every day you climb up a mountain at night to visit a shrine.
Let’s Enjoy the Stalls!
Yoshida Shrine’s Setsubun Festival is famous for its stalls, or to be more exact the number of them. The food stalls are everywhere; starting from Kyoto University all the way to the inside of the shrine. On February 2nd and 3rd a dazzling number of food stalls pop up near the temple, almost 800!
Some people even go to the Setsubun Festival just to visit these food stalls. There is a lot of variety to what food the stalls offer, some offering the festival staples, but others offering something a little more special like grilled ayu sweetfish, sardines, boiled tofu, or other specialties. There is so much variety that just looking at all of it is fun!

Inside the temple grounds there are hollering demons lurking around. If you see one, be sure to take a picture!
The Two Events at Yoshida Shrine’s Festival You Have to See!
On 2nd of February at Yoshida Shrine they have a ritual called Tsuinashiki, and on 3rd they have one called Karosai. Tsuinashiki is also called Oniyarai ritual, a ritual to drive off a demon. Since the demon is the symbol of bad luck, at most Setsubun festivals there is an event where the demons are driven off. The driving off, or exorcism at Yoshida Shrine is a spectacle so it is very popular.
This ritual is done at night when three demons roam around the shrine scaring people. Many children look like they want to cry after seeing a demon. But these scary demons are first cornered by the “champions of justice” demons called Hōsōshi and finally are driven off by people from the temple shooting arrows at them. It is rare to see demons drive off demons. If you go to the Yoshida Shrine Setsubun Festival, I hope you will also get to see the Oniyarai ritual!
Karosai is a ritual where old “omamori” amulets and “ofuda” wooden blocks with wishes written on them are burnt. The old talismans and wooden blocks the worshippers have brought to the temple are piled up to form a huge bonfire in front of the tori gate. The diameter of this bonfire is over five meters, so when it is lit it can get pretty hot. Though it is really hot, if you get close to the flames you will be in good health for the coming year. The sight of the flames is so powerful that if you see it once you won’t forget it. The Karosai event starts at 11PM, which is a bit late, but we hope you will stay up to see it yourself.
Participate in a lottery by buying lucky beans!
During the Setsubun festival you can participate in a lottery by buying “lucky beans”. The lucky beans cost only 200 yen, but you shouldn’t look down on the lottery because of the cheap tickets! The prizes are grand; in the past they have had cars, televisions, hotel vouchers, electronics, food, sake… all kinds of great prizes. The winning numbers are announced at the temple, at 1PM on February 4th but you can also check the numbers on Yoshida Shrine’s website or on the Kyoto Shimbun newspaper. You can claim your prize later. How about testing your luck once a year at Yoshida Shrine?
More information
Setsubun Festival
Setsubun Festival (Yoshida Shrine)
Click here for more details about the event!
In part one I told you about my four tips on how to enjoy the Yoshida Shrine Setsubun Festival. I am certain you will be surprised; the temple is as crowded as a beehive! If you are in Kyoto during Setsubun, I hope you will try the things I have told you about in this article. I am sure you now know how much fun Setsubun is!

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