This is a festival that takes place on the day before the first day of spring [立春] according to the Lunar Calendar [太陰暦] and is usually celebrated in Japan on February 3rd. At this time a special ritual [儀式] called mamemaki (bean scattering) [豆まき] is performed at temples, shrines, and at homes. Traditionally the oldest man of the household would throw roasted soybeans called fuku mame out the door or at a member of the family wearing the mask of a demon or ogre [鬼]. He would repeat the phrase, “Oni wa soto! Fuku wa uchi!” which means “Demons out! Fortune in!” and then slam the door shut. Afterwards it is customary [慣用] to eat one soybean for each year of one’s age for good luck.
It is customary in the Kansai area to eat uncut makizushi called ehō-maki (恵方巻, literally meaning "lucky direction roll"), a type of futomaki (太巻, "thick, large or fat rolls"), in silence on Setsubun while facing the year's lucky compass direction, determined by the zodiac [干支] symbol of that year. This custom began in Osaka but in recent years ehō-maki can also be found in Tokyo.
Setsubun has its origins in tsuna [追儺]. A Chinese custom introduced to Japan in the 8th century. The custom of mamemaki first appeared in the Muromachi period. Because Setsubun was considered to be different from normal times, people might practice role reversal [役割の逆転]. Such customs included girls doing their hair in the styles of older women and vice versa, wearing disguises [変装したり], and cross-dressing [男装／女装すること]. This custom is still practiced among geisha and their clients when entertaining on Setsubun.