HOKKAIDO, Feb. 4 – On February 3 each year, people in Japan does a “mamemaki” (literally “bean scattering”) traditional ritual of throwing soybeans to cleanse away evil spirits symbolized by oni, supernatural demons that often appear in Japanese folklore. But, people here in Honbetsu town, Hokkaido, have a lot more to do with the mamemaki. They have an event called Honbetsu Mame-maka Night (literally “you gotta throw beans tonight in Honbetsu”) that uses 2 tons of dry roasted soybeans to drive away an ill fortune. The youth group of a local agricultural cooperative (JA Honbetsu-cho) supports the event to promote soybeans, the local specialties of Honbetsu. This year’s festival was held on January 27 and attended by approximately 800 locals.
The main feature of the day is an “oni-taiji” performed at a stage set in a public gymnasium. The attendees with clear eye protectors and large bags of dry soybeans circled the stage and threw countless soybeans at oni, who appeared on the stage in groups, some protecting themselves by pot lids and others wearing unique costumes such as football team uniforms.
The oni were played by 28 locals including firefighters, primary school teachers and town officials.
The people here also enjoyed mame in all sorts of ways. With Kigan Mameabi (make-a-wish bean shower), people had beans poured over them to make wishes. With Mame Slider, people enjoyed slipping down a slide with soybeans.
Farmers in Honbetsu town in Tokachi region, Hokkaido, produce several kinds of high-quality soybeans. The soybean-themed event was held for the first time four years ago with a purpose of making the name of the town better known by the public. According to Keigo Ikeda, a 37-year-old leader of the youth group of a local commerce and industry association, they used to have no such event to highlight soybeans. “We want to tell the world that Honbetsu is a great ‘town of soybeans,” he stressed.
The soybeans used at the festival are sourced from local soybean farmers who collect the crops left in their soybean combine harvesters while cleaning them. Then after the event, used soybeans, though only uncrushed ones, are kept for the reuse in the next year’s festival. This practice was adopted all along from the very first Mamemaka Night.