February 3rd is the traditional "beginning of Spring" festival (seems a little early, doesn't it?) when a kind of "Jack-and-the-beanstalk" ceremony is performed, with beans being thrown out the door. No mythological giants in the sky await a magical beanstalk to reach them, however, as this tradition is meant to keep the "giants" (that is, demons) from entering into one's home and bringing bad luck. "Oni wa soto, fuku wa uchi" ("Demons (stay) outside; happiness (come) inside") is the phrase chanted as the "setsubun" (literally "dividing of the seasons") beans are tossed out the door.
Much pomp and ceremony surrounds this festival, and various shrines and temples compete with each other to come up with their own innovations. Tsukuba's own Mt. Tsukuba Shrine is a picturesque place to take in this bit of Japanese culture, and you can include a cable car ride to the top for a great view if the weather is good. When Setsubun falls on a weekend or holiday, it can be quite crowded, but if it is on a regular day, it should not be too bad. Nevertheless, plan to go early if you are driving as parking places are a premium.
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