December in Japan 師走 しわす

Updated: Dec 20, 2021

日本語 会話 (Intermediate level)

In the old lunar calendar, December was called Shiwasu (please refer to “Japanese and Moon” article). It is a busy month for many Japanese, not because it is a holiday season, but to complete the year on good terms. And they take some of the rituals seriously. Many department and on-line stores prepare a special sales section for year-end gifts called Oseibo. The gifts are not for Christmas (only 1% of the population is Christian) but are sent to mentors and individuals more senior in the workplace to express gratitude for their guidance throughout the year. People spend a good amount of money for high-quality seaweed, ham, wine, and other non-perishable goods. Why do the gifts tend to be preservable? Because the longer they last, the more the gift giver’s loyalty will be remembered. Personally, I think the tradition is a nuisance and getting old fashioned. The gifts are better to be delivered in person if circumstances allow. Most people have more than one mentor and superior to be thankful for, so you can imagine how busy it gets in December purchasing gifts, making diplomatic visits to present Oseibo, exchanging pleasantry over light snacks or even dinner, and repeat that with several other people.


With close friends and among colleagues, Oseibo would not be exchanged. Instead, they have a year-end party called Bonenkai that means “the event to put the year behind you”. Izakaya (Japanese bar and grills) are packed by Bonen-kai attendees, and occasionally, you will see drunkards on the streets that include well-dressed business women.


Many Japanese spend their time cleaning their house and office. This event is called Oosouji literally means a major cleaning. The significance of this event is to dust every nook and cranny in preparation for the new beginning (New Year). In western culture, there is a sense of continuation of time from December into the next year. In contrast, there is a strong sense of punctuating the year end with events like Oseibo, Bounenkai, and Oosouji that give the Japanese a fresh start to the New Year.


Happy holiday wishes and a wonderful New Year to you. Thank you for reading my blog!


Japan, Japanese, Oseibo, Shiwasu, gift
December in Japan, Presenting Oseibo gift

日本語 会話

*download + view to listen


A: いらっしゃいませ。ご来店(らいてん)ありがとうございます。


B: すみません、お歳暮(せいぼ)のコーナーはどこですか?


A: 申し訳(もうしわけ)ございません。今月(こんげつ)の20日(はつか)からになっております。 


B: そうなんですか。それは残念(ざんねん)だなあ。せっかく来(き)たのに


A: オンラインでのオーダーでしたら承(うけたまわ)っておりますが。


B: そうですね。ちょっと見(み)てみたんですが、やっぱり品物(しなもの)を直接(ちょくせつ)見(み)たくて来(く)ることにしたんです。


A: そうですか。それは大変(たいへん)申し訳(もうしわけ)ございませんでした。20日から12階(かい)の催事場(さいじじょう)でご注文(ごちゅうもん)を承っておりますので、是非(ぜひ)また足(あし)をお運(はこ)びください。


B: 仕方(しかた)がないですね。そうすることにします。


A: ありがとうございます。それでは又(また)のご来店(らいてん)をお待(ま)ち申し上(もうしあ)げております


覚えたいことば

お歳暮(おせいぼ)/Oseibo n. a year end gift

忘年会(ぼうねんかい)/Bounenkai n. a year end party

大掃除(おおそうじ)/Oosouji n. a year end cleaning

ご来店(らいてん) n. "a visit" in respect tone

申し訳(もうしわけ)ございません "our apologies" in respect tone

になっております 〜になっている, has been decided on 〜. Here, it has been decided on "opening from the 20th".

残念(ざんねん)だ ナadj. 残念な+plain form of です disappointing

せっかく adv. making an effort to do something. Here, I made an effort to come.

のに p. although. Here, although I made an effort to come, (it was closed).

承(うけたまわ)って v. te-form of 承る to receive (order, request, inquiry) in respect tone.

ことにしたんです present plain verb+ことにする: to decide on ~, Here, I decided to come. compare with another expression ことになる

催事場(さいじじょう) n. an event hall

足(あし)をお運(はこ)び an expression. 足を運ぶ to visit

仕方(しかた)がない an expression. can't do anything about it.

申し上(もうしあ)げております an expression in humble tone: We look forward to seeing you. 申し上げる alone means "to speak" in humble tone.