Usugi.. What do the Japanese do every year on December 28?

A long time ago, in ancient Japan, December 13 was the time to remove dust from temples, shrines and castles to drive away evil spirits and to appease the New Year’s deity, Toshigami, the grandson of the gods who settled the islands of Japan. welcomed, who attends at the sunrise of the first day of the year, He visits all homes to bring health and happiness to families. This ritual was then known as susuharai, which means “sweeping soot”. (1)

Thousands of years later, in the Edo period (the last periods in Japan’s ancient history), this custom moved to homes, and later to schools and companies, as all these places prepare to welcome the new year, and all the negative of the past year deposited and waiting for the next with positive energy in a ritual known as ” Oosouji means “great cleansing”, and it is a ritual practiced by the Japanese to this day on the last weekly holiday of the year , and a few days before the New Year, and they deep clean the house to restore vitality and energy to it. (2)

All actions in Japanese culture acquire a spiritual character, and similarly in “Usugi” the cleaning process is based not only on getting rid of garbage, but also on stripping away the burdens of the past, so that the Japanese get rid of all assets that are associated. with the past and evoke negative memories to prepare for the future. Cleaning here represents a good opportunity to rearrange the mind and sharpen the emotion, and is considered a cure for the soul, and the truth is that when you learn about the impact of this habit on psychological and mental health, you can think about becoming part of your habits.

From top to bottom.. and clockwise


Planning for the process begins ahead of schedule. It usually takes place on December 28, days before the start of the new year, but some families may delay it until the beginning of the year. The family chooses a suitable day such as the weekend, and the participation of all its members is important, so that each of them has the authority to decide about his property and himself disposes of the old to welcome the new, and preparations are made . to provide the necessary cleaning agents, boxes and bags, and products such as baking soda, white vinegar or ammonia liquid to help deep clean. (3)

The appointed day begins with closing the phones to cause no interruptions, and opening the windows to let in fresh air, and to maintain maximum calm and focus, a candle or a stick of incense can be lit . As for the cleaning process itself, it starts from the top where the ceiling is, to the bottom where the floors are, and it is often in a circular fashion, starting at a point and moving in a clockwise direction until it reaches the same point. at the end. Dust is removed from furniture, appliances, floors, walls, cupboards are opened, and their contents are checked. In addition to cleaning it, to get rid of everything that is no longer useful, and to get rid of everything that causes negative feelings and sad memories, while keeping only things and memories that give calmness and peace.

Uesugi rituals also include checking the completion of deferred routine tasks, such as sending a coat to the cleaners or returning books borrowed from a friend, checking paid bills and old bills settle, and to get rid of documents and bills that have accumulated in the house without any interest. (4)


Also in schools, students with the help of their teachers clean every corner of the school, in temples bamboo tatami mats are laid out in the sun to remove all traces of moisture, and in workplaces employees and officials also prepare their desks for the new year. (5)

Can you imagine how clear your mind will be after you get rid of everything that occupies it? It is a ritual that allows the mind to a deeper level of focus and transports us to the present and relieves the burdens of the past. Getting rid of all that is unnecessary gives us a sense of freedom, while the accumulated old stuff limits us.

What does our brain look like in chaos?

For the Japanese, it may be like a spiritual ritual passed down through generations, but its benefits are clearly proven by modern neuroscience. In the face of chaos, and with the presence of multiple and disorganized visual elements, the visual cortex of the brain is busy with many things that distract it from the primary task, and it seems more difficult to focus on a specific task , that’s why specialists sometimes recommend closing the curtains when you start working or studying just to reduce the surrounding visual elements. (6)

Researchers found that describing a home as “messy” or “chaotic” was associated with a depressed mood and greater feelings of burnout in couples. (Shutterstock)

Stacks of paper and closets full of clothes have a cumulative effect on our brain, as indicated by a study published in the “Journal of Neuroscience” in 2011, as the presence of these items causes visual distraction that increases cognitive load and reduces memory capacity, as well as reduces our ability to focus, which is a constant drain Brain abilities make us stressed and anxious. (7)

The effect extends to food choices. People in unstructured environments tend to make unhealthy food choices. Surprisingly, this effect doesn’t disappear as soon as we close our eyes and fall asleep. Those who sleep in disorganized rooms have more trouble falling asleep. (8) As a result, fMRI techniques and other physiological measurements have revealed that decluttering the home and work environment provides better ability to focus and process information, leading to increased productivity. (9)

In a study published in the journal “Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin” in 2010, researchers used linguistic analysis to identify a number of people’s descriptions of their homes, and compared them to their psychological state. During the experiment that included 30 spouses, the researchers found that the description of the home To be “full” or “chaotic” was associated with a depressed mood and greater feelings of exhaustion in couples, and higher levels of cortisol (the stress hormone). “Renewed” feelings of comfort while at home and lower rates of depressed mood. (10)

This is how hygiene affects our health and psychological state

Cleaning is a physical activity that improves heart and respiratory function, bone health and reduces the risk of infectious diseases and depression. (Shutterstock)

When the English navigator Will Adams landed on the coast of Japan in 1600, he noted the elegance of the nobility, the purity of the bathrooms, and the presence of steam baths smelling of fragrant wood, in contrast to the streets full of refuse wash. England. In Japan, a country with a hot and humid climate, cleanliness and order have always been important. Always synonymous with good health. (11)

At the level of physical health, researchers at Indiana University traced the case of nearly a thousand American citizens belonging to a group always at risk for heart disease, and they were of African descent and varied between the ages of 50-65 years. , and by measuring their general health, it was found that the owners of clean houses were in better health. And the cleanliness of the house was a positive difference indicator more than walking. (12)

Cleaning is a physical activity that improves heart, respiratory and bone health and reduces the risk of infectious diseases and depression. A clean house means higher air quality, with less dust and germs, thus preventing respiratory and infectious diseases. (13)


The benefits do not stop at this point. As we organize drawers, fold clothes, or clean floors, we spend quiet moments of focus and attention. In a study published in the journal “Mindfulness” in 2015, researchers found that dishwashers were careful and calm while considering the smell of the detergent. The warmth of the water and the feel of the dishes is a meditative practice that promotes alertness and allows attention to be focused on the feelings and thoughts of the present moment, and can be seen as a way to relax and reduce stress. (14)

Cleaning in “Usugi” seems to be an emotional cleaning that gets rid of everything that generates negative feelings, making you feel free from the burden of the past, and a clean house helps us save resources and time, as well as improve our mood and help us complete tasks faster, these benefits may invite you to think about welcoming New Year’s Eve the Japanese way, and see what effect this custom can have on your day. You can also consider following the cleaning with a surprise picnic in nature, just like the Japanese do who go to the famous Mount Fuji, beaches and open spaces to see the first sunrise in the new year and a year of wishing peace and tranquility.



  1. Ōsōji, the grand limpieza de fin de año
  2. Everything you need to know about Japanese New Year’s Eve
  3. Oosouji: the Japanese method to clean the house deeply
  4. Oosouji, the method of limpieza que practical los japoneses cada 28 de diciembre
  5. Ōsōji, the grand limpieza de fin de año
  6. How cleaning has a positive effect on your mental health
  7. Interactions of top-down and bottom-up mechanisms in human visual cortex
  8. This is what it means when a cluttered room stresses you out
  9. Interactions of top-down and bottom-up mechanisms in human visual cortex
  10. No place like home: home tours correlate with daily patterns of mood and cortisol
  11. What Japan can teach us about cleanliness
  12. La limpieza puede ser un “gesto” sanador: he is the Oosouji, the disciplina japonesa que busca el bienestar
  13. Beneficios de limpiar la casa: una psióloga nos explica los motivos
  14. Chores or stress reliever: Study suggests that washing dishes reduces stress

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