Though in the Western world is it more common to hear about “spring cleaning”, the Japanese tend to do their annual home clean-up in winter, just before the New Year begins and most people return to their hometowns to spend time with their families. However, it isn’t only family homes that need a good scrubbing during this period, but also offices, shops, and even Kyoto’s many temples and shrines. Rather than doing it quietly themselves, one large temple in Kyoto has made their “winter cleaning” into a nationwide community event.
Nishi Hongwan-ji, a large Pure Land temple near Kyoto Station, hosts their Osusuharai tradition in late December, and volunteers from the local area as well as constituents from all over the country come to participate. Clad in aprons and smocks with masks and towels wrapped around their faces to protect from dust, over 500 volunteers attend the Osusuharai. From early morning the volunteers are hard at work beating the tatami mats, fanning dust out of the halls, and wiping the floors while the priests take to the rafters and ladders to dust the golden treasures and delicate wooden scrollwork. If you visit in the winter and want to play a part in helping preserve a historical temple, you may want to mask up for the Osusuharai.
Things to See/Do