Last Day of the Year (oomisoka)


Last Day of the Year (oomisoka)

***** Location: Japan, worldwide
***** Season: Mid-Winter
***** Category: Season


Misoka 晦日 is the name for any last day of a month, so the oomisoka, the great last day of the last month, 大晦日.
Also called "Great Year" ootoshi 大年.

The season shortly before the change of the year is called "the year coming to an end" toshi no kure 年の暮れ、saimatsu 歳末、toshi no se 年の瀬、saiban 歳晩。
The "Year is leaving" yukutoshi 行く年,
"to send the year off " toshi okuru 年送る、
"to think fondly of the past year" toshi oshimu 年惜しむ

. Seasons ending .

Google December 31, 2011

One of the chores for the end of the year is cleaning the home from top to bottom and then back again, so that no speck of the dust of the passing year is left in the new one:
great cleaning, oosooji
kure no oosooji 暮れの大掃除

To clean off the soot, suszuharai 煤払い
is another cleaning activity going on in temples and shrines. Large poles of bamboo are used to wipe away spider nets and other dirt. On the picture you can see the monks cleaning the head of a Buddha statue at the Temple Manpuku-ji.

In the Edo period, it was the custom to pay all your amounting bills until the last day of the year, so you could see the money collectors walking around too. Now, the run to the bank is some kind of equivalent.

On the last evening, later in the night, many temples and shrines are prepared for the first visitors of the New Year and sound the bell 108 times, to wipe away the disturbing thoughts of the old and let in a refreshed mind:

striking the bell, joya no kane 除夜の鐘
on December 31

Look at this bell

Here is another one



observance kigo for mid-winter

roojitsu 臘日 (ろうじつ) last day of the year
..... roosai 臘祭(ろうさい) festival on the last day of the year

The word ROO means つなぎあわせる "to hold together"
It implies reverence to the ancestors and all deities of Japan. It was also a banquet to pray for good harvest in the next year.

It also holds together the last month of the old and the first month of the new year.
The 12th month is sometimes called 臘月 Roogetsu.


observance kigo for mid-winter

There are quite a few rituals performed on the last day of the year.
Here are some of them.

toshi tori 年取 (としとり)
getting one year older

..... toshi toru 年取る(としとる)

On the last day of the year, people eat a proper meal with a whole fish (with head and tail fin).
Everyone would be one year older on the next day. Individual birthdays were not celebrated in the Edo period.

. Matsuo Basho at Suma no Ura - toshi tori


toshi mamoru 年守る (としまもる)
to watch over (the passing year)

toshi moru 年守る(としもる)
shusai 守歳(しゅさい)
toshi okuru 年送る(としおくる)

People stay awake on the last night. Some visit a shrine or temple, others go to the seaside, others stay at home and watch television. A Year-End party at home is not so common in Japan.


toshi no hi 年の火 (としのひ) "fire of the year

In many areas on the last day of the year old sacred straw ropes (shimenawa) are burned outside in the garden, if people forgot to bring them back to the local shrine.
This fire would also purify the whole house and could be used to cook the last meal of the old year.
toshikoshi tondo 年越とんど bonfire to pass into the new year

. Shimenawa 注連縄 a sacred rope

. yotsugi hota 世継榾 (よつぎほた) "successor firewood"

. toshi no yu 年の湯 としのゆ last bath of the year

. misoka soba 晦日蕎麦 (みそかそば)
buckwheat noodles on the last day of the year


toshi no yado 年の宿 (としのやど)
lodgings for passing into the New Year

..... toshiyado 年宿(としやど)
toshi no ie 年の家(としのいえ) home for passing into the New Year

Either one's own home or the home of the parents, or whilst travelling.

Worldwide use

The last evening of the year is called
New Year's Eve.

This last evening is called Silvester. We have a big party to lead us into the new year. At the change of the clock at midnight, people start a firework in the garden and some towns officially.
Gabi Greve



House cleaning and painting are some of the most conspicuous events at Christmas time each year. It is a tradition.

final touches
the house painting
at year end

Kenneth Daniels, Guyana, December 2009


Things found on the way

List of Events in Tamba (Japan), a local saijiki
Features a Market for the Last Day

Other traditional events and customs, all of which are kigo, mostly for the New Year.

HATSUHINODE First Sun <> New Year Kigo > First Sun, First Sunrise (hatsuhi, hatsuhi no de, Japan)
OSECHI RYORI (JAPAN) New Years Food <> New Year Kigo > New Year Part 2
HATSUMOUDE Fists visit to the temple <> New Year Kigo

KAGAMIMOCHI Offerings of Rice Cakes <> New Year Kigo

Here are more links to see these rice offerings

TAKOAGE Flying the New Year Kite <> New Year Kigo
JOYA NO KANE The Temple Bell on the last/first night > see above
TOSHIKOSHI SOBA Eating buckwheat noodles on the last evening
YUKIDARUMA Making a snowman > Snowman (yuki Daruma) Japan (yuki-botoke)
KAKIZOME First calligraphy

Worldwide use again


In Chicago, although the practice is illigal, some people celebratethe new year by shooting firearms into the sky.

new year's eve--
the revelers' gunshots close
a violent year

Ed Schwellenbach


joya no kane

"Gong on New Year´s Eve"
Onda Akio (b.1924) 恩田秋夫


shame, shame!
on the month's last day
a meadow butterfly

hazukashi ya misoka ga kite mo kusa no choo

by Issa, 1810

Or: "meadow butterflies."
Shinji Ogawa explains that Issa's phrase, "month's last day" (misoka), alludes to bills that need to be paid. He paraphrases the haiku: "Shame, shame! on the month's last day I cannot pay my debt." In Issa's days, most people bought things on credit and paid up at the end of the month or, in some cases, end of the year. Issa replaces the phrase, "I cannot pay my debt" with "a meadow butterfly," which suggests, in Shinji's view, that he is "as penniless as a meadow butterfly."
All this is implied by Issa's Japanese, not stated--making the task of translation especially difficult.
I might make the comparison explicit, as Shinji suggests: shame, shame! on the month's last day I'm as penniless as a meadow butterfly ...but this makes for a less effective haiku, making explicit a thing that Issa leaves to the reader's imagination.

bamboo thicket--
on the year's last day, too
evening rain

Issa, 1805
Tr. David Lanoue


oomisoka tamago-no kara-o tsubushi sutsu

New Year's Eve
crushing up an eggshell
i throw it away

Dhugal J. Lindsay


New Year's Eve-
sleepy eyes
close before midnight

Kate Steere


just the two of us
in the year’s final moments …
and Jupiter

Christopher Herold Woodside, CA, USA


cleaning, susuharai:

awaiting the new year -
cleaning my house
for the Gods of Good Luck
(Tr. aided by Ed Schwellenbach)

Etsuko Yanagibori


end of the year -
piles of haiku pages
gathering dust

awaiting midnight -
a ripple of temple bells
bless the New Year

Joachim Seckel, WHCworkshop

Related words

***** New Year (shin nen 新年)




Gabi Greve said...

. Last Day of 2005 : Oomisoka in Japan .


Gabi Greve said...


muratake ya ootsugomori mo yoru no ame

bamboo thicket--
on the year's last day, too
evening rain

by Issa, 1805

Tr. David Lanoue (haikuguy.com/issa/)

ootsugomori, おおつごもり is another reading for 大晦日.


Unknown said...

Gabi san,
Thank you for your super comment on Oumisoka that is very hard to explain.
Your pages are always helpful for me.


Gabi Greve - Darumapedia said...

kamigami no toshitori 神々のトシトリ Gods for the New Year

Different Kami have different days to start a new year:
Yamanokami on the 12th, ノウガミ 農神 Nogami on the 16th
八幡様 Hachiman sama on the 15th, 観音様 Kannon sama on the 17th
お蒼前様 O-Sozen sama, protector of horses, on the 19th
疫病神様 Ekibyo Kamisama for infectious diseases on the 20th
お地蔵様 O-Jizo sama on the 23 and 天神様 Tenjin sama on the 25th.

Gabi Greve said...

and fox dance

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