Oosouji – A Japanese Tradition
The Japanese Tradition of Oosouji takes place annually on or around the 28th December and is the Japanese equivalent of “Spring Cleaning”. It is carried out so that households can start the New Year with a clean and organised home, in order to welcome and show respect to the gods known as “Toshigami” for another year. Oosouji roughly translates to “Big Cleaning” so you can imagine the lengths that people go to when cleaning up their homes, schools and places of business. Homes are meticulously cleaned and de-cluttered which really makes sense to me. Why wait until Spring? A lot of people are not working at this time which is an ideal opportunity to Oosouji. This is the time to do things that are not usually done at the weekly clean like cleaning ovens; dusting behind the sofas; cleaning light fittings. In Japan the whole household cleans together to create a clean house to take into the new year. Gods don’t like clutter – so its a way of showing the gods that they really care.
Follow the Zen Habits rule “whenever you bring in an item, you have to throw away two other items. First you cheat, by throwing out two pieces of paper, but soon you will have to move to big stuff.”
The Kadomatsu is made of pine and is used to welcome the ancestral spirits and help guide the Toshigami and prevent them from being lost along the way. They are placed in pairs and are only put up after Christmas; they will stay up until January 7th.
The Shimekazari is a decoration strung up to portray to the gods that the cleansing has been completed and that they are ready to welcome them in.
This is used as an offering to Toshigami and is used to bring good fortune, luck and prosperity in the New Year. Kagami means mirror and this decoration resembles a past used copper round mirror. Mochi means rice cake and the Kagami Mochi is made of two rice cakes (each of different sizes, the small on top of the larger). It also includes a Japanese type of bitter orange (Daidai) placed on top of it. The orange symbolises long life and the continuing of generations. The Mochi symbolises the New Year and past year.
As you are clearing up after the Christmas onslaught think about the Japanese Tradition – and give your house a New Year spring clean.
Image 1 Japanese Tradition
Image 2 Oosouji
Image 3 Toshigami
Image 4 Shimekazari
Image 5 Kagami Mochi