Shimenawa (a sacred rope) (しめ縄)

Kami-dana are miniature Shinto altars kept in the home.

One important component of Shinto altars is a sacred rope called a Shimenawa. Shimenawa is a thick rope made of rice straw with zigzag-shaped paper strips called shide. A shimenawa separates the sacred space from the secular and protects the sanctuary within the altar from evil spirits and impurities.

Each year the shimenawa should be replaced with a new one after the altar was cleaned.

New year decorations and shimenawa sold in a grocerty store in December.

It is traditional to replace the shimenawa near the end of the year except on December 29th and 31st. Replacing the shimenawa on the 29th is considered bad luck because of 20 (二重:double) 9(苦:sufferings/pains), which is a play on words. Replacing it on the 31st is called “Ichiya kazari (overnight decoration)” and is considered being rude to “Toshigami-sama” (the deity of the new year) because it is too close to the day the deity comes. Or there is another tradition that Toshigami-sama comes in the early morning on December 31st so it is too late to decorate the shiemenawa in the afternoon on December 31st.