Oosouji: Japan's Annual Therapeutic Cleaning Ritual

Oosouji is a Japanese ritual that's usually performed once a year. Its objective is to offer greater physical and mental well-being. How do they do it? Find out here.
Oosouji: Japan's Annual Therapeutic Cleaning Ritual
Sergio De Dios González

Reviewed and approved by the psychologist Sergio De Dios González.

Written by Edith Sánchez

Last update: 23 February, 2023

Oosouji is a Japanese method of house cleaning that is also an act of healing. Its goal is to remove dirt not only from spaces and objects but also from the mind.

For the Japanese, cleanliness is closely associated with well-being. The word Oosouji roughly translates to ‘big cleaning’. Traditionally, it takes place around December 28 every year. The aim is to welcome the new year, leaving behind any remnants of the past that are no longer useful. However, it can be carried out at any time.

The key to Oosouji is to plan the cleaning well. This not only means having the time and the necessary tools for carrying out the task but also being willing to leave yesterday behind. In fact, the practice should be assumed as a ritual.

We do a huge cleaning, remove all the dust, dirt, and stains of daily life to receive the pure New Year. And, after the cleaning is finished, each house begins to decorate and to prepare.”

-Mimi Goda-

The five tasks of the Oosouji

The Oosouji is a plan that encompasses five tasks. Each of them is important for the huge cleaning process to take place. The five activities are as follows:

  • Deep clean spaces. This involves all the spaces of the house or office. The three basic elements that are taken as references are the ceilings, floors, and walls.
  • Check cabinets and other containers. This is one of the hardest jobs. It means taking out everything that’s stored in them and sorting them out.
  • Say goodbye to everything useless. Everything that’s broken, not used, or not liked must be classified separately. However, it’s important to recognize the contribution they made and determine why they’re no longer of any importance.
  • Pay debts. The Oosouji starts from the idea that debts are a ‘nuisance’ to well-being. For this reason, this process should encompass the settling of them, if at all possible.
  • Eliminate everything that’s no longer useful. This is the final step. It consists of discarding or donating everything that’s been placed within the useless category.

The Oosouji preparations

Oosouji must be carried out in an organized manner. Therefore, the first thing is to develop a work plan. One or more days are required to carry out this work. Moreover, it’s extremely important that the process is carried out completely. If it’s interrupted and a part is left for later, the whole process will probably prove to be ineffective.

The activity must be carried out by all the inhabitants of the house, so it should be scheduled for when everyone is free. In addition, they must all agree to disconnect while the ritual is taking place. Therefore, cell phones and electronic devices must remain switched off.

The implements and elements that are needed to carry out Oousouji must also be prepared. In addition to cleaning instruments, garbage bags are required to dispose of waste and boxes in which to put everything that’s going to be donated or stored for any reason.

Carrying out the big cleaning

In terms of cleaning itself, Oosouji suggests cleaning from the top down and from the inside out. In other words, to start with the ceilings and walls, and then continue with the floor. Likewise, start with the rooms furthest from the entrance and end with the one closest.

Regarding the rooms, they should be cleaned following the orientation of the hands of the clock. Therefore, the cleaning ends at the same point it started. This way of cleaning represents the complete journey through a cycle.

The objective of this type of cleaning is to achieve greater well-being. Although it focuses on physical activity, it seeks for this action to have a meaning that goes beyond the material. In fact, it represents a ritual that helps to remove everything from life that’s obsolete, belongs to the past, and has no function or usefulness in the present.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

  • Fahkrunisa, L. (2022). THE CULTURE OF JAPANESE AND JAVANESE SOCIETY IN COMMEMORATION OF NEW YEAR; COMPARATIVE STUDY. At-Ta’dib (Jurnal Pendidikan Islam), 2(01), 81-88.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.