Free resources for the Japanese traditional setsubun festival

Free resources for Setsubun –  setsubun is on February 3rd annually, except for rare exceptions. For example, in 2021 for the first time in 124 years, it fell on February 2nd. Setsubun marks the end of winter. Most families celebrate at home, but there are also dozens of events carried out at community centers, temples and shrines nationwide. This post contains dozens of free resources for Setsubun; I have no affiliation to any of the external websites linked and none of the links are sponsored in anyway. Just a mom of four sharing the resources I have found over the years! Happy Setsubun. Skip to the free resources for Setsubun.


Free resources for setsubun

The Mamemaki or bean throwing ceremony is a key element of Setsubun. In Tokyo, there are temples where famous people, often sumo wrestlers, throw the beans, and sometimes money, from a dais out to the excited crowd. We participate in this bean throwing ceremony locally in Kitain Temple in Kawagoe. And thankfully that, and Saitama’s most famous bean throwing ceremony, are confirmed for 2024. Most preschools and children community centers also carry out bean throwing. As well as participating in fun crafts and activities to mark the day.

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The purpose of the festival is to rid your house of demons and welcome good luck for the coming year. Hence, we chant oni wa soto, fuku ha uchi “demons out, good luck in” as we throw beans out the door or at the head of the household who dresses up as a demon. To this end kids often make oni masks for the ceremony and/or for playing dress up.  If you eat the same number of beans as your age it is believed you will have good health for the year. You can read more about the festival on the on Wikipedia .


Free resources for Setsubun

Back in 2015 when I first wrote this post, we were preparing for Setsubun from mid January. Reading oni (demon) stories and talking together about setsubun. My kids are a eight years older now! So we celebrate a little different. But the bean throwing is an integral part of our celebration. As younger kids they made masks and holders for the roasted beans used during the bean throwing ceremony.  You will find lots of resources below to make everything you need for Setsubun this year!

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The Beans

The beans are easy to come by in Japan at this time of year. Many shops sell commercialized mini-packs of roasted beans or nuts some with flavors. I bought ours from a home delivery shopping service, Coop. For people overseas: it will depend on the country, but sometimes you can pick them up in an ‘Asian Market’. You can also find them on online.

You can always improvise too, with nuts or even fake beans! Even without the ‘real’ beans there are several ways to mark the occasion. I wanted to share some of the setsubun and mamemaki teaching, craft and activity resources available online. Whether you are living and/or teaching in Japan, or a Japanese living abroad, or just looking for something to do with the kids on February 3rd, you will find something fun among these free setsubun art and craft resources. Most of these ideas are most suitable for toddlers and preschoolers.

Free Resources for Setsubun

Japanese Oni ; devils, demons, trolls or ogres

Japanese demons are depicted with 1 or 2 conical horns on their heads. They are often red, blue or green in color. They usually wear tiger skinned pants. In addition, you can often see them adorned with gold jewelry as it is said they have a fondness of gold. They also carry a “kanabo”, a metal club. Oni are believed to be strong anyway, but carrying a club makes them invincible. There is a saying in Japanese “like giving a kanabo to an oni”. It means making somebody who is already strong or at an advantage, even stronger. Supposedly Oni are derived from rakshasas in Indian culture.

Oni Masks

 You can draw your own, or you can use the free print outs in the links below to make a mask for setsubun. There are a number of ways you can turn the free print outs or a hand drawn oni into masks. First color (where necessary) the demon and cut it out. If you want to make a mask that covers the face you can stick a rectangular strip of paper to each ear and tape the open ends around an elastic band.  For a “mask” that is worn above the face, on the forehead, you can simply stick the cut out to a head band or even a cap or make your own band out of paper.

Kanabo Metal club Crafts

Carrying a ‘kanabo’ demon’s metal club adds to the overall effect!

Oni’s Pants!

Oni Colouring pages

Free print-outs

A huge selection of colored setsubun print outs and posters. There are also Valentine’s and other February scenes within the pages and pages of freebies!

Oni Origami

Oni Recipes

We eat ehomaki on Setsubun. Here’s a recipe to make your own as well as other food ideas for Setsubun.

Keep scrolling for even more free resources for Setsubun!

Mamemaki Bean holders

In order to throw the beans, you need something to carry them in right!? In fairness, if you are in Japan you can in theory just use the packaging them come in. They are usually the ideal size for kids to hold. But if you buy in bulk and / or want to make it more fun for the kids, crafting their own “mamemaki” holders adds to the memories!

Free resources for setsubun an important annual religious festival in Japan
Mask that sits on the head and mamemaki holder made out of a milk carton cut in half

Milk carton setsubun mamemaki holders

One of the most popular and easiest kid’s craft for mamemaki holders is cutting a milk carton in half, piercing a hole in each side and using pipe cleaners as a handle. In the right hand (your left!) of my son in the photo to the left.

Paper cup setsubun mamemaki holders

One of the more original mamemaki holders I saw was on Hiragana Mama’s blog; a decorated paper cup. I strongly recommend you take a look around her blog, its absolutely fantastic with lots of great ideas for all of the Japanese annual celebrations and traditions.

Origami mamemaki holders

This year we are using origami boxes. This origami box paper craft is one of my favourite practical uses of origami.  You don’t need origami paper as this easy to make box uses rectangle shaped paper such as an A4 sheet of paper.

Other Setsubun Origami

A selection of Setsubun origami from Origami Club

These are just some ideas and resources you can use to enjoy the Japanese February 3rd end of year festival by chasing away demons.  You can read about our experience at a temple bean throwing festival here. Disclaimer: I have no affiliation to any of the external links I posted in this article. First published January 29th 2015. Updated annually. Republished in 2021 after some major changes.

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  1. THANK YOU. That’s next week’s theme and fun crafts covered for next week. 🙂

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