Monday, December 31, 2012

"Ohmisoka"

In Japan, we have a word for the last day of the month, "misoka" and in the old days all bills were due then. Today is "Oh-Misoka" or the Big Misoka, and in addition to bills, if one borrowed something during the year, if one has become indebted to someone, the borrowed items were returned and polite "Thank you's" were conveyed to those who helped you.

By the way, the month of December has a nickname, "Shiwasu" or "teachers running"; the month is such a busy one even teachers, who are usually dignified and cannot be rushed, need to get a move on to finish everything that is required of them.

And on the home front, we do, as it were, the whole Spring Cleaning in one day. In the dead of the winter. And I hear winter came early this year and the northern half of Japan has had February temperatures and snow falls this month. Of course many mothers plan well and start cleaning incrementally, but even fathers help on this special cleaning day. Most families finish cleaning sometime in the evening, and then we sit together and have a super simple bowl of soba (buckwheat) noodles either as part of dinner, or near midnight. Soba noodle is nothing special, we eat it all the time, but it's slightly more brittle than other noodles, so since the Edo Era we've been eating it on Ohmisoka evening to sever our ties with all the bad things that happened during the year.

Whereas the name "New Year's Eve" seems to me to mean only the day, or evening, preceding The Big Day, it is an important day in its own right in Japan, and we don't get drunk, but sit with family, eat mandarins, maybe watch the telly or a movie, shoot the breeze and chill out. And some people go out even later to be at a shrine, or the top of Mt Fuji, at midnight. It is an important day, and even when I was 31I got in hot water because I wanted to go out with Ben to see a famous shopping area selling Hagoita, decorative Japanese racket for a genteel version of badminton-like sport; it wasn't so much the actual cleaning, but the absence of common sense for him to ask me out on Ohmisoka and for me to want to go that absolutely enraged my mother. Needless to say, I didn't go. (Though I must add, at a younger age my brother was allowed to go out with friends.)

So Ben and I did your ritual/symbolic cleaning today. And it's a good thing because the house really needed it. He also made a pasta dinner, but we might have soba too, at midnight, just a small bowl.

I printed out my 2013 Things to Remember,
put up the map of Italy on the stash room wall,
 and the Riverside Shakespeare on my bedside.
I sprained my ankle before lunch and cleaning, and it was so loud Ben heard it in the other room. Or maybe it was my yelping he heard. I didn't break anything, I can walk, and cleaned the house thus, but it's a little swollen and, how can I describe it, it vibrates when I hobble. So I couldn't weave my purple piece even though I really wanted to. 

The water turned grainy brown at around 4PM and I had to ring the City Council. I really didn't want a plumber to have to come to my house just before 5PM on New Year's Eve, and in the end the water cleared, but I'm fringing the cashmere scarves, and I'm not sure if I want to wash them tonight.

And way before all that, at the start of the day, I sheared Ben. He has new glasses and they require very short and tidy look. More than his old pair.

There is three and a half hours left of 2012 here. Thank you for your company, and I shall count on some more in the coming 2013. 

11 comments:

  1. Happy New Year, Meg. May you weave to your heart's content in the coming year!

    ReplyDelete
  2. Happy New Year Meg and Ben, wishing you health and happiness for 2013! Julie x

    ReplyDelete
  3. Sounds like Hogmanay - the crazed cleaning of the house before the old year is out, at any rate. I'm not sure about the borrowed things, but it makes sense. If you're cleaning the house from top to bottom then you're bound to unearth a few things that remind you they ought to be returned... I'm sorry that it's brought on a sprained ankle, though. Hope it heals swiftly and you start the new year with a leap and a bound! (Under supervision from a health and safety officer if necessary)

    ReplyDelete
  4. Happy new yar, Meg! I hope your ankle will be ok soon. In Norway we also have spring cleaning in winter, but we clean before Chrismas, so that everything hopefully is clean and tidy before Chrismas eve.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Sorry to hear about the ankle - not a nice way to end the old year and start the new one. I hope it doesn't impede your weaving for very long!

    ReplyDelete
  6. Happy New Year Meg. I hope 2013 treats you well and brings you happiness. Since getting back home from my in-laws I've been on a bit of a sorting mission. I've purged my bathroom cabinet, and chest of drawers and kitchen cupboards. Such a good feeling. Shame the neatness won't last but it's nice to know that there is a reason for my cleaning - even if I didn't know about it before.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Good morning, everybody, and if you haven't crossed the line yet, (GMT just has, I believe,) trust me when I say 2013 looks pretty much like 2012 on a very lovely day, so smooth sailing to us all.

    My foot seems to be just fine as long as I don't walk/run on them too much. If/when I bump it or jump up and down, it feels like a bag of skin fill with liquid, but so far it doesn't even look as bad as I thought it might. Maybe something to go with my loom pics? I think not. At least a legitimate excuse for not gardening.

    ReplyDelete
  8. Hi there Meg and Ben,
    happy New Year.
    What an odd coincidence - your ankle and my foot! Mine has been hurting for quite a while, and the doctor told me today that it's 'old age'!!! How on earth can it be old age, when everything was fine one minute and not the next!!!! I was rather upset. But maybe it means good luck when you start the new year with a hurting foot. Hope you'll be OK soon, especially for going home. Which incidentally coincides "perfectly" with our stay in Nelson. Bugger! You didn't plan this, did you?!
    Take care
    Anneliese

    ReplyDelete
  9. Happy New Year to you, two, too. Oh, my! The doctor was a little rude, to say the least? Have you seen another one? I sure hope yours gets better before your trip.

    No, I didn't plan my trip in any particular way. Previously, flights to Japan were high-season-expensive until around Jan 15, but this year I learned that it's that way until the end of Jan, so I decided to go the earliest I could in Feb. But it seems the lat trip plan worked better for my parents - Nov/Dec time preparing for the winter suits them better so in future I might try for that. Although, I admit, I like being in Japan in the dead of the winter, Feb, even though it restricts travel plans, and I understand they are having a really cold one this year. Grin!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. John is convinced you're leaving the country at this time so that you don't have to tolerate him!

      Delete
    2. Ha ha, we'll stick with that story, then.

      Delete

I love comments. Thank you for taking the time!