I’ve noticed that people in the West do a big "spring cleaning" when the weather gets warmer in the spring. I see people dust, sweep, wipe, and scrub to clean their homes from top to bottom.
Did you know that we have a similar tradition in Japan? But we do it at the end of the year, just before we welcome the new year.
This big winter cleaning is called “osouji.”. We clean and purify the home so that the Shinto deity of the New Year, Toshigami, can be welcomed in.
Toshigami, is believed to visit each home in the New Year, bringing health and good fortune to the families. Before Toshigami can visit, the house must be cleaned and prepared. Once your home is purified, the front door will be decorated with a traditional New Year's “shimekazari” rice straw rope decoration. The family and the house are ready to welcome Toshigami.
Osouji is a family event in which the entire family, including grandparents, teenagers, and small children, work together to clean their residences. It is a time for the whole family to come together and clean together. As a small child, cleaning the house with my parents and grandparents was fun and made me feel proud. Cleaning and putting up the shoji screens was my favorite part of osouji.
Osouji dates back to the Edo period. Traditionally, clearing began in the second week of December, but with busier lifestyles today, cleaning begins much later in the month. However, you should complete the cleaning by December 31st at midnight.
Osouji isn't just for families; many Japanese businesses do a thorough workplace osouji before the end of the year. Everyone helps to tidy the office area. Offices and schools usually finish their osouji before the new year holiday break.
I feel this Japanese tradition of osouji is a ritual to cleanse both our souls and our spaces before welcoming a new year. It feels great to clear the dust, clutter, impurities, and negative energies from our spirit and physical space before the new year. I simply love this custom. I hope you give osouji a try before the end of the year.