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Japanese Traditions when Moving into a New Home

Many Asian countries are well-known for their remarkable customs when it comes to moving into a new home. In the past we’ve published guides related to this topic for the Philippines, South-korea, China, Malaysia, and India. Here’s our last publication of this theme, sharing with you home moving rituals in Japan.

Jichin-Sai, a Shinto Ritual

As for some more supernatural practices and traditions when moving into a new place, Japan with its colourful landscape of religious beliefs and rituals has got you covered!

In Japan, there are rituals not for just moving into a new place. There are rituals that need to be performed on the construction site! The Jichin-sai is a Shinto ritual typically performed to sanctify, consecrate, and protect the area for a new building and includes the construction of an altar and a ritual performed by a priest. This is meant to also protect the construction workers’ safety and well-being.

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Joto-Shiki Ritual

A similar ritual is a Joto-Shiki ritual that represents the blessing of the house’s new framework. In addition to these rituals, purification ceremonies conducted when moving into a new home are commonplace too and are performed by a Shinto priest. The rituals themselves are done to ward off any lingering bad spirits and to protect the household from any bad energy or spirits that may drift by.

While many younger Japanese do not really believe in the magic or efficacy of such practices, they are still performed for cultural and traditional purposes regardless. Due to Japan’s more porous and pluralistic attitudes towards religion and spiritual beliefs, these Shinto rituals can be performed by Buddhists, Shinto, atheists, and individuals of other religious beliefs.

Gifts for Neighbours

While many places around the world see a host of new neighbors bringing wine or fruit to a new neighbor, in Japan, things are a bit reversed. Instead, the new neighbor will bring gifts to their neighbors! But rest assured, you don’t need to go broke your first day in the neighborhood because typically these gifts are small treats or household goods, they are known in Japanese as “Hikkoshi Aisatsu” or “moving in presents”.

Think paper towels, or some snacks. Anything too expensive will make your neighbors feel as though they now owe you something and may make them feel uncomfortable. Another tip when it comes to gifts is to never give kitchen knives, scissors, or other sharp gifts. The bladed or sharp edge represents a cutting of you and the other person’s relationship and will also make people feel uncomfortable, too.

For those who want to bring their new neighbors something memorable like a reusable item or something permanent, keep in mind that items in pairs are considered extremely lucky in Japan. So if you get your new neighbors statuettes or any sort of knick-knacks or tchotchkes make sure you get them two in a matching pair!

Though knives or bladed objects are a no-go, that doesn’t mean your new neighbors wouldn’t enjoy some expensive or rare fruits! Feel free to gift your neighbors melons, oranges, or apples. These are more appropriate gifts than in the Western world where a bottle of wine is the typical fare to gift!

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As you can see, from preparing gifts to rituals, moving into a new home in Japan can be a busy affair! Moving into a new space can be a time consuming activity anywhere, but certainly so in Japan. Between preparing gifts and preparing for rituals, moving into a new home in Japan can be a busy affair. Make sure to bring no knives or blades as a gift, get things in pairs, and tip your local Shinto priest after the purification ceremony!

Sources:

  • “Jichin-Sai, the Shinto Ceremony of Purifying New Building Sites.” Japan Style, 27 June 2013, www.japanstyle.info/06/entry35434.html#:~:text=The%20ceremony%2C%20called%20Jichin%2Dsai,involved%20and%20future%20house%20owner.
  • Lothor. “Shinto Rituals for Houses.” Japan Reference, Japan Reference, 21 Oct. 2015, jref.com/threads/shinto-rituals-for-houses.58051/.
  • Mike, et al. “Moving-in Gift Giving in Japan.” PocketCultures, 7 Mar. 2013, pocketcultures.com/2013/03/06/moving-in-gift-giving-in-japan/.