Feb 3 is Setsubun and a time for throwing beans at demons… It takes place at shrines, temples and people’s homes.
Here’s Wikipedia’s succinct overview of the custom and its origins:
Setsubun is the day before the beginning of Spring in Japan. The name literally means “seasonal division”, but usually the term refers to the Spring Setsubun celebrated yearly on February 3 as part of the Spring Festival. In its association with the Lunar New Year, Spring Setsubun can be and was previously thought of as a sort of New Year’s Eve, and so was accompanied by a special ritual to cleanse away all the evil of the former year and drive away disease-bringing evil spirits for the year to come. This special ritual is called mamemaki (literally “bean scattering”). Setsubun has its origins in tsuina, a Chinese custom introduced to Japan in the eighth century.
For an explanation of the beans, click here.
For some interesting facts about the festival, see here.
For a description of the festival at Kyoto’s Yasaka Jinja, see here.
For a photo story of Setsubun at Shimogamo Jinja, see here.