February 3 is the Setsubun Festival at many temples and shrines in Japan. It marks the beginning of spring according to the lunar calendar. They yell, “Oni wa soto! Fuku wa uchi!” (鬼は外! 福は内!) while they throw beans at ogre to eliminate the evil (oni) of the previous year and bring in good fortune (fuku).
In Shiga Prefecture, the most impressive Setsubun festival is held at Taga Taisha Shrine in Taga town. They have impressive ogre (called oni in Japanese) dancers from Shimane Prefecture to act as the demons to chase away during the festival. The bean-throwing is called mame-maki. They will hold two mame-maki sessions on Feb. 3, at 11 am and 2 pm. Expect a large crowd.
It starts with a ceremony in the shrine’s worship hall. Then a dramatic performance by the ogre on stage where they are chased away by priests throwing beans at them. The main event is when over a hundred people born in the year of the dragon begin to throw soybeans and mochi to the crowd. The soybeans are thrown in little paper bags, so you can still pick them up and eat them even if they fall to the ground. But the mochi are hard as a rock, so watch out. The bean-throwing is fun, but potentially dangerous with beans or mochi hitting your face/head and people pushing you around. Taking pictures is pretty risky as well. One mochi even hit my camera lens. Fortunately, no damage. You should always look up and see where the mochi and beans are flying.
Taga Taisha is near Taga Taisha-mae Station on the Ohmi Railways Taga Line. Google Map here.
Video link: http://youtu.be/41epqjNMG8s
Taga Taisha Setsubun official Website: http://www.tagataisya.or.jp/info/setubun/index2.html
More photos: http://photoguide.jp/pix/thumbnails.php?album=727