January 19, 2015

The Year End Osoji in Okinawa


After flying into Okinawa, we jumped right into the year end tradition of Osoji (大掃除).

Growing up in Michigan, my family always kept with the tradition of spring cleaning. It makes sense to open the windows and clean the house out once the cold weather goes away. Especially in Michigan, it's just too darn cold to do any cleaning at the end of the year.

But in Japan, osoji is part of the sacred new years ritual of preparing your house for the god(s) that will visit you in the new year. It goes hand in hand with the kadomatsu (門松) and shi-me-kazari (注連飾り), which are also put up to welcome the god(s) into your home.

In the Edo Period, they called this year end cleaning Susu-harai (すす払い). Most families in Japan do osoji in the last couple of days of the year now, but previously susu-harai was done on the 13th of December. It was considered the day to start preparing for the new year.

My family is neither Shinto or Buddhists, but we keep with tradition because it's easier to do hardcore cleaning when you have the whole family there. The more hands the better, right? And also, it's just a great feeling to be able to welcome the new year with a clean house.

Do you do osoji at the end of the year?

Here are some photos:

My mom was in charge of the yard.
My baby sister and I were in charge of all the windows and doors.
My daddy was in charge of fixing and cleaning electronics around the house, like fans and lamps.
Did I mention we were in Okinawa? Perfect weather to open the windows and clean!
My other sister was in charge of vacuuming the entire place.
We washed all the curtains. If you look closely, you can see my brother by the window.
Grandma coming to peek at how everyone was doing in between her osoji in the kitchen.
It may seem like I was just taking photos the entire time, but I did my part...you have to believe me!
It felt really great to get the house in order before the new year!

2 comments:

  1. You did a good cleaning. I usually do some cleaning too but this year I was too busy. Only 2 days, well just 1, to clean. I was too busy partying in December and then I just didn't feel like doing a good clean. I did clean up a bit more after the new year. Well, after the 10th as I was told that you shouldn't clean in the new year as it "sweeps out" the good luck.

    Also, I heard that the first Saturday is the end of the gods visit. They return all of the ornaments at that time.

    I know how you feel about the traditions. It's hard to know what is really religious and what is a tradition in Japan when religion is so intertwined.

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    1. Ohhh, I didn't know about the not-cleaning-until-the-10th rule! Good to know.

      That's exactly it, religion is very intertwined here. But I think that's part of the beauty of religion in Japan. It seems like it's not something you make a big effort to follow and the religion itself doesn't really define who you are, it's just a part of their every day life. Or that's just how it seems to me. Either way, traditions usually do come from religion so I guess that's normal ;)

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