On the last day of a year, at midnight,“Jo-ya-no-ka-ne(除夜の鐘)”, or “bells on New Year’s Eve” are ringing at every temple. Bells are totally struck for 108 times on each temple. In Buddhist beliefs, there are 108 annoying desires which cling to humans (just 108? or so many? ^^;), and they can be purified while the bells ring one by one. As we’ve listened to all the bells calmly, our annoying feelings of this year are removed, and we can meet New Year with fresh mind. 107 times of the bells are struck on December 31th, and the last one bell is done as the date is just changed, that is, on January 1st.
The super-ecological cleaning tool, a broom, made of bamboo handle with Shuro（棕櫚）, a kind of palm in Asia. Prepare traditional tableware for New Year. Most of them are lacquer-coated. They are used at January 1st. Writing greeting cards for New Year, called “nen-ga-jou”(年賀状). We write and send the cards in December, to be deliverd on January 1st.
We Japanese have a custom to clean homes thoroughly on late December to prepare for New Year. It was called “O-o-souji(大掃除)”, meaning “big cleaning.” The custom derives from the belief in ancient times that Toshigami-sama(年神様) a god for good harvest and good luck would come on January 1st.... We clean our house to welcome the god, that is to say, to welcome good harvest and good luck for next year. (Actually, when I was a child, I didn’t understand the custom so much but it was a family event and I just followed the custom with joy.) Please note that we always finish “O-o-souji” before the 31th, because if you do it for the last day of December, we lose good luck!
“適材適所(tekizai-tekisyo)” is an idiom of Japanese, meaning“to put the best fitted person in the best fitted position for the best fitted job.” Originally, the words derive from how to choose woods. Looking at the second character “材” carefully, we notice it consists of two parts: “木” and “才”. “木” means wood, “才” means ability. The idiom meant that we carefully chose best fitted wood in accordance with the intended use. We use 檜“cypress” for buildings such as temple and shrine, which is relatively light but so strong. We use 桐“paulownia” for chest of drawers, which is so light to move, and good at allowing air to pass through easily as to keep inside cleaned at wet weather in Japan. We use 白樺"birch" for handy tool, which is so hard, heavy, and indestructible if it’s thin. Moreover, we also use 竹“bamboo,” for various tools such as umbrella and tea whisk, which is not wood, but alike, easy-obtainable and flexible plant. Each wood has own characteristics to contribute to something special in our life, as well as we do.
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