Wednesday, December 16, 2009

It`s Christmas in Japan Again

Oh yes boys and girls it is that special time of year again here in the land of the raising sun. Lets all get ready for another twisted version of Christmas here in Japan. As many of you may know Japan is pretty much a non-Christian nation. The very idea of Christmas is so far removed from Japanese culture that the holiday has been oddly integrated in the Japanese mindset. In Japan, Christmas is a completely secular commercial holiday. The natives of Japan make no connection to religion and Christmas. For the Japanese, it seems as if Christmas is all about presents, Santa, KFC dinner sets and illumination(Christmas lights), and spending some extra cash in high-end shopping districts like Ginza.

The Japanese secular take on Christmas has produced some interesting customs. Leave it to the Japanese to completely redefine the biggest holiday in the world.

KFC Christmas dinner:
When I first came to Japan several years ago I was surprised by how much Japanese people love KFC. I mean, KFC is deep fried southern style chicken. This is not something I expected Japanese to really go for. Yet, they love redneck chicken. They love it so much that every year during the holiday season Japanese people line up to buy a big KFC holiday dinner set. Deep fried chicken for the whole family!

It`s Happy Christmas in Japan not Merry Christmas:
I guess this one is a simple cultural misunderstanding. They always say Happy Christmas instead of Merry Christmas. I have actually talked to several Japanese about the difference between `Happy` and `Merry.` They don`t see the difference between the two words. They see every western holiday celebrated using `Happy -------` so it makes sense to the Japanese to say Happy Christmas as well. I try to explain to them that merry implies a special spirit connected to Christmas. Having no religious connection to Christmas they miss the point.

Christmas Cake:
This is something I found completely different. I for one had never heard of a Christmas cake until I started living in Japan. Every year all the supermarkets and specialty shops offer up fine quality beautiful cakes to enjoy. Apparently, the Japanese are taking the Christmas Cake tradition from the Brits(at least it appears that way from the Wiki article). It is usually just a fancy sponge cake. I had one last year and it was pretty good. I plan on picking one up this year as well.

Wham! Last Christmas:
In Japan is seems their favorite Christmas song in English is `Last Christmas` by Wham. I often wonder why the Japanese fell in love with a shitty song by a shitty pop band from the 80`s? Almost every place I go in Tokyo I get treated to this damn song. The Japanese seem to care less that the song is not all that good. I think they like it because it has a easy melody and refers to a happier past(the Japanese are obsessed with the past).

A Japanese Christmas is a bit different from what I used to experience in the states but I enjoy the holiday season all the same.

What do you find different about Christmas in Japan?