It's Beginning To Look A Lot Like Something
And that something may be Christmas. The holidays in Japan are very odd, I am finding. Aside from the whole no family or old friends to hang out with on Thanksgiving or Christmas, Japan goes about the holidays in a very strange fashion.
First, there is the Western association of Christmas with religion. For most Japanese, the only thing religion has to do with anything related to Christmas is the fact that Christ is in the word "Christmas". Aside from that, Christmas here is a totally secular holiday. The Japanese celebrate Christmas almost solely for the gift giving aspect of it, which they enjoy very much. One could say, this is probably how most Americans view Christmas now too but there is one thing that sets Japan apart.
In the United States, if you aren't celebrating Christmas for religious reasons, you are always reminded by the religious folk that Christmas is a Christian holiday. Especially in Boise, the Mormons cram it down your throat. Here, there is no talk or bickering about the religiousity of the Christmas holiday. Christmas is just a time to hang out with friends and family and give gifts, especially the giving gifts part. Its odd not to see the "He's the reason for the season," signs and bumperstickers. You never hear people complaining that Christmas is becoming too secular and you never hear news reports that church service attendance is falling for the Christmas masses or services. In Japan, none of that really exists for the majority of Japanese and they have never known it any other way. I know why I celebrate Christmas but its odd not to have the constant reminders flashed in front of me.
The icons of Christmas are different here too. There are Christmas lights but not many, at least not in my town. Though I did notice that my town has the main street all decked out in lights, that made me happy. In the States, you may see Mickey Mouse dressed in a Santa outfit, here, its Anpanman and Doremon that are in the Santa gear. Santa is also portrayed slightly different. One of my students drew a picture of Santa for me tonight that had Santa equipped with slanted, almond shaped eyes and a black Fu Manchu beard. I almost died. Santa-san is not the normal Norman Rockwell or German Santa that I am used to. It kind of messes with my mind.
On that note, the Japanese have a different Ronald McDonald than what Westerners are used to. Since the Japanese have a hard time pronouncing Ronald and the Mc part in front of Donald, the happy hamburger clown is simply known as, Donald here. He is also a Japanese person and despite the fact that I know who he is supposed to be, the Japanese Ronald comes off as looking vaguely like John Wayne Gacy minus a hundred or so pounds. He scares me.
One thing I am looking forward to is Santa sitting in a department store here, taking pictures with little kids. I want to see a real life Japanese Santa. I may even have to sit on his lap. Now speaking of a mental screw job, imagine being that poor Japanese Santa and sitting there helplessly as a lumbering white guy strides toward you, intent on placing his girth on your petite lap. I like role reversals.
Anywho, I am going to go eat dinner now and I will be sure to post any odd Yuletide happenings that occur between now and the big day. By the way, out of all the kids I asked tonight, all but one said they wanted either a Nintedo DS or Nintendo Wii for Christmas. I love this country.