Happy New Year! While salutations of "akemashite omedetō gozaimasu" ("Happy New Year") filled the air in most parts of the country at the start of the month, my home was filled with exclamations of a different sort.

“So that’s where the lost karuta game card went,” I heard my wife shout. “Try to keep your dried ramen snacks in your mouth in the future, not under the sofa!” — that was her again, as was, “Ooh, it’s been dead quite a while, I think.” That last one came upon the discovery of a cockroach husk found under the refrigerator.

The Japanese have a lovely custom called "ōsōji," or “big cleaning,” during the New Year holidays. That's when we clean the dark corners, hard-to-reach spots and most bothersome places in our homes. I say it's a lovely custom, but I graciously let my wife take the lead on doing most of it. She is the Japanese one in our relationship, after all, and I would never dream of cultural appropriation. In Scotland, a certain amount of dirt and mess is believed not only to build character but antibodies, too.