Ōsōjiー大掃除 or the “Big Cleaning”

New Year’s Day is the biggest holiday of the year in Japan.  It used to coincide with the Chinese New Year, but that is another story.  It is a time for gift giving, celebrations, feasting, and visiting one’s ancestral grave sites.  On New Year’s Eve, millions of Japanese visit their local Shinto Shrines and Buddhist temples.  Temple bells toll 108 times.  It is believed that humans have that many “passions” or sins.  Each strike of the bell supposedly drives away one such passion.

About a week before January first, people start their “Big Cleaning”.  Students scrub the floors of their schools and dust every nook and cranny.  Employees do the same at their work sites. Public parks, the road in front of one’s home, and one’s garden get the clean treatment too.  It is very important to start the new year out in clean surroundings.  In Japan, cleanliness is indeed next to Godliness!

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From left to right, photos courtesy of:




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