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Seasons and culture of Japan

Things to do on December in Japan

According to Japan's old traditional calendar, the month of December is called: 師走, "Shiwasu", which has the meaning of "priests running around".  It is thought that the origin of the term Shiwasu came from the fact that December is a busy month, and even the normally calm temple and shrine priests have to become very active.  One of the big reasons for everything getting busier in Japan is because December is the last month before the New Year.  So, for example, at temples and shrines, many preparations must be made for receiving the large numbers of people who will visit (and offer prayers & buy amulets) during the New Year's holidays.  Such visits are called 初詣, "Hatsumōde", and mainly occur during the first three days of the New Year, when many people are able to take some time off.  Another type of preparation for New Year's is 大掃除, "Oh-soji", which is the Japanese tradition of deep-cleaning one's home, office, or school.  Thoroughly cleaning your house can be a big job, and the goal is not just to eliminate the dirt and dust, but also to get rid of old junk and unneeded objects which have piled-up over the past year.  So, in this regard, December becomes a very busy time for those who are involved in the businesses of garbage collection and waste-processing, etc.  Oh-soji cleaning is actually a centuries-old Japanese tradition, where, back in the olden days, people wanted to tidy-up and purify things in order to greet the Shinto deity of the New Year, who was called 年神 "Toshi-gami".  When deep cleaning a Japanese house, the windows and sliding doors will all be thrown open to allow a fresh air breeze to help flow/push the dust outside -- and in the Yokosuka area, December tends to have dry weather which is not freezing cold, so that helps with the process and keeps things from becoming too uncomfortable.  We hope you will join in this Japanese tradition and prepare/purify your home for the New Year (2024 -- Year of the Dragon). 

Written by Goodfield

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