In less than a month, the year will come to an end. This marks the start of osouji, a Japanese tradition of deep cleaning to welcome Toshigami, the Shinto deity of the New Year. Although we are now heavily reliant on technology, brooms used in ancient times may prove useful during this cleaning season.

In Japanese homes, traditional brooms produced from plants like kochia or the bark of a hemp palm for bristles were commonly used. These brooms are compatible with soft rush plant tatami mat flooring, and regular use brought out the gloss on the mats’ surface. And of course, every broom comes partnered with a dustpan. Harimi are traditional Japanese dustpans made by stretching washi paper across a bamboo strip framework. They are sealed with kakishibu dye made from persimmon tannin that is water-resistant and serves as a bug repellent. Since the dustpan doesn’t produce static electricity unlike plastic or metal, gathered dust is disposed of neatly. But the highlight of “sweeping” for the Japanese has a more metaphorical significance. Brooms are used as talismans to ward off evil spirits, illness, and danger. Many temples and shrines throughout Japan perform a cleaning ceremony on December 13 to purge physical and mental impurities that have been accumulated over the year.

As we all navigate new lifestyles these days, there may be unanticipated cues from the past. Technology constantly changes and develops, but never tradition. It’s profoundly ingrained in our culture, and no cleaning tool will be able to “sweep” it away.