Toshi-otoko (年男)

"Toshi-otoko" (literally means a man of the year) is one of the Japanese customs. Such customs have survived only in some old-established families and are not commonly observed today.

Toshi-otoko means a man who plays the leading role in family events such as the New Year festival. Especially, as far as the New Year festival event is concerned, toshi-otoko presides the event by directing all particulars such as the year-end cleaning, the New Year decorations, water drawing on the New Year's day, offerings for "toshigami" (the god of the incoming year), and "osechi" food (special food for the New Year). In the old times, the Muromachi bakufu (Japanese feudal government headed by a shogun) and the Edo bakufu used to appoint a man well versed in old rituals as toshi-otoko while in ordinary households, the head of a family used to take on the role, which gradually shifted to the eldest son, a servant or a young man.

Toshi-otoko also means men who were born in the year of the same zodiac sign (symbolic animal) with that of the current year.

In the past, toshi-otoko men play the role of throwing beans in their regions at the Setsubun festival (celebration of the coming of spring).

[Original Japanese]