I’ve finished my “Osouji” ….I think. Hubby left his end of the cleaning up until tomorrow. He elected to do ALL of the outside work this year, something I usually also manage to do. This year with me having been in the hospital and such he said “don’t do it-I’ll take care of it”. I don’t always listen but this year he said “don’t do it” firmly so…I listened this time.
I surveyed what needed to be done and it looks to be about 2 days of work. I know, I always do it…so…I’m guessing I’ll have to sneak out there and lend a hand or he will never get it all done tomorrow. Tomorrow is the only day it can be done because we are busy Thursday. We’ll see. I don’t blame him though-he’s been helping his brother out with some important projects.
See…I’m not listening again. gah.
New Year is THE most important holiday here.
Everyone will be out in full force tomorrow- cleaning windows and yards, genkans and futon closets.
Osouji is more than just “spring cleaning”. It has religious / auspicious significance. Cleaning (煤払い すすはらい) susuharai or soot and dust was a ritual to show gratitude for the year’s harvest and all the blessings one received. It was/is also a purification ritual in getting ready for the new year to come and welcoming toshigami (New Year gods).
In the old days Osouji began on December 13th – shougatsu kotohajime-the day when New Year rituals began but, now a days most people don’t adhere to strict dates…. although where we live I can’t think of anyone that does not participate in Osouji. As a matter of fact my BIL has already given his staff leave so that everyone can go home and prepare for the upcoming holiday. December 31st is called o-misoka (おおみそか) and everything needs to be done before then.
Besides cleaning, the setting up of the seasonal decorations must be done.
Kagami Mochi is set up in the kitchen-usually on the kitchen shrine. We don’t have a kitchen shrine so I just set ours on the counter.
If you go to a hotel or a ryokan you may see them in the genkan. The above picture was taken at an onsen ryokan we stayed at two years ago. The kagami mochi was in the genkan.
You will see Kadomatsu-gateway pines- set outside the entrance to most businesses although I haven’t seen many at private homes around here. Kadomatsu are made from bamboo and pine and are traditionally believed to be temporary homes for the kami (new year god). Arrangements may look differently depending upon the area of Japan.
The photo on the right (below) is a store-bought version of Kagami mochi and shimekazari. Shimekazari are hung on the genkan door.
Shimekazari- a small rope made out of rice straw and usually decorated with shide or small pieces of zig-zag shaped white and orange paper. Sometimes just white paper.
Shimekazari come in all manner of sizes and décor. There are some really elaborate expensive ones and then you can get the cheap versions at your local Daiso. Each item on the shimekazari has an auspicious meaning. You might see some decorated with mikan (tangerine) which is considered a good omen. You also see kagami mochi decorated with a tangerine on top.
You might see Shimekazari decorated with lobster-which is a symbol of long life, pine a symbol of power and longevity and fern leaves are symbols of hope and the desire to have a happy family. Each and every single decoration you see has an auspicious meaning. Nothing is placed randomly or just because it “looks nice”. You can google shimekazari and see all manner or styles. I’ve even seen some on cars!
We have yet to get any decorations up! The gods of new year will be displeased with us if we don’t get a move-on…gah. I think hubby will go down to the local hardware / do it yourself place tomorrow and get ours. I leave all that up to him.
Next up…Osechi ryori when I continue!