Oh no, it's 大掃除 (ōsōji, large-scale cleaning) season. While people in other countries get to visit Santas in shopping malls and cavort with friends over endless pints, we in Japan are forced to get on our knees and scrub tatami mats with 固く絞った雑巾 (kataku shibotta zōkin, a much wrung-out dust cloth) for like, hours on end for days and days. OK, so I'm exaggerating. Or rather, I'm allowing myself to be traumatized by the Ghost of Ōsōji Past.

Growing up, I always hated the month of December as my mother's moods steadily turned blacker with each passing day. Our family calendar was marked not with advent festivities, but with ōsōji prepping: The 15th was when the closets had to be cleaned out, the 20th marked the day when ダンボール箱 (danbōru-bako, cardboard boxes) of stuff purchased over the last 11 months had to be opened and their contents sorted and stored away, and so on and so forth.

The boxes, by the way, had to be neatly folded and wedged in whatever narrow space was available or tied up with string and carried to the neighborhood trash bin on the designated 資源ゴミ (shigen gomi, recyclable trash) day.