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Home » 5. Rites and Festivals » Rituals in Daily Life
An event held at a shrine during the night on December 31st, New Year's Eve (ōmisoka); also called the Toshikoshi matsuri. Joya refers to the "night" of "jonichi," (another word for ōmisoka). Until the late Kamakura period, the Imperial Court commissioned a yin yang master to perform an exorcism ceremony known as tsuina on the eve of the New Year. During the Muromachi period, even after tsuina came to be held on setsubun (the final day of winter), religious ceremonies were still performed for Toshikoshi on New Year's Eve. However, it was in the Meiji period that New Year's Eve events became formalized as the Joyasai. There is also a Buddhist practice of striking the joya bell on New Year's eve to eliminate the various defilements at the root of all suffering, but this ritual only began in the Edo period. According to folk custom, after completing various preparations to welcome the Toshigami, people would retreat into a shrine at sun down and emerge in morning to greet the first day of the New Year, a custom known as toshikomori which is thought to have originally been intended as a form of monoimi (a ritual period of abstinence) to spiritually cleanse oneself for the New Year. Shrines also often light large fires around which people can be seen sitting in a sleepless vigil. Different events, such as rites to ward off the kami of epidemic and blight, or ceremonial offerings of firewood to the gods, occur at different shrines. In recent years, the pattern of visiting a shrine or temple on New Year's Eve followed the next day by visiting a shrine for hatsumōde has become the most common, and the Toshikomori has lost much of its relevance in celebrating New Year's Eve.

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