Japan's Annual Year End Clean-up: O-Souji

Our working year will end today, December 29th, 2020. This year, we started this website. We are still learning and have many things that need improving, but we will continue to do our best.

An annual custom in Japan is year-end cleaning. Called O-Souji, this is the process of cleaning your home or place of business at the end of December to welcome the new year with optimism.

Year-end cleaning at the Koto Kyoto store.

In reality, the purpose of the year-end cleaning is not for you and your family to pass the year comfortably but to get rid of soot in your house and prepare to welcome the gods. Soot dusting itself has been going on since the Heian period (794–1185). It seems to have taken root as an event to remove the dust and soot accumulated in one's home over the year.

In the Edo period (1603–1868), December 13th was designated as the day for dusting off soot, which is believed to have led to the modern year-end cleaning. For this reason, December 13th is also called "the first day," which is a good omen to start various preparations for the New Year. It is customary to start cleaning on December 13th and finish on December 28th.

It is also said that cleaning should not be done on December 29th, 31st, and January 1st.

This is because December 29th is a day with the number 9, which can be read as "pain" and is therefore considered bad luck. Cleaning up and putting up New Year's decorations on the 31st is said to be "overnight decorating" and is undesirable because it gives the impression that preparations were made hastily.

As for January 1st, it is said that cleaning on New Year's Day is bad luck because it is said that good fortune will flee, as cleaning on New Year's Day is said to sweep away good fortune.

Let's clean up early and get ready for the new year!