As I travel around Japan, especially at this time of year, I seem to almost be assaulted with Christmas, it is inescapable. Just when I thought I would get a break, I’m proven wrong.
The Asunaro is a small train line located in Yokkaichi city, Mie which would be a bus route in any other city. It’s small, cheap and great value for money, it is so much smaller than the Iga tetsudo line but amazingly it has 2 lines.
However Christmas is here as well. Admittedly it was a lovwlth offering but it was so out of place. Yokkaichi is an extreamly Japanese city, even on the train they use ございます(gozaimasu) instead of です(desu) for station names, not even the JR line does that.
Into this mix christmas flows as easily as reading the city’s name: 四日市市 which is easy once you know it (Yokkaichi-shi) but trying to work it out from the Kanji alone is troublesome.
Japan and Christmas are a wonderful match, especially when Japanese culture is added to the mix. Partying, even having a dinner party, is an expected part of any festive celebration but why should the adults get the special drinks- won’t anyone think of the children?
Okay this sounds weird but don’t worry children, the soda industry has your back. Firstly, these drinks are not cheap but they are covered in colorful plastic packaging with Doraimon and other characters. There is also Appletiser, which I do like but is still full of sugar.
People usually buy these drinks for either the Christmas party of for New Year’s eve/day celebrations at an extremely cheep 1000 JPY a drink (or 10 USD).
This section is also brilliant for the non-drinkers (me) wanting a social life- just a little one though.
It’s official Christmas is absolutely everywhere every day. Today I saw a Facebook post about wamageddon and thought about the ease of getting through to Christmas day. I’m no longer sure about this.
Just before catching the train, I decided to get a nice fresh black coffee and it was given with a smile. I then looked at the cup- a Christmas cup.
After work I went to Aeon supermarket to buy a drink and while ignoring the Christmas seasonal displays with a practised ease, I started humming. I had unintentional started humming the music the store was playing which turned out to be a synthesised version of last Christmas.
It was then that I saw the signs above the sushi section, above the bento section above every section. The signs stated in perfect English, so I had no excuse about not seeing them, the words “Merry Christmas”.
I have moves to a country where many consider Christmas to be a strange foreign thing but its everywhere. I even asked my collegues if their children prefer Christmas or New Year’s day and all stated Christmas, due to the gifts they receive instead of money at new years (called お年玉 or otoshidama).
I believe November should be called pre-Christmas month as I cannot escape it. Please ignore the fact I bought a wrief and I immediately placed it on my door….. my annoyance still remains firm.
As I have previously discussed, Japan’s interest in Christmas seems to have exploded since my time as a foreign exchange student just 5 years ago. It could be due to increased experience or perhaps a more enlightened world view, but Christmas is everywhere.
In know in the UK, Christmas has exploded onto the Zeitgeist with people already putting up decorations, listening to music etc. But there is one thing that most agree on: the Christmas dinner: the turkey (or other option), the veg, the stuffing, the company, the merriment and everything that I won’t be experiencing this year (perhaps also why I’m noticing Christmas things a lot more).
To the Japanese (most), Christmas doesn’t evoke the same feelings and even though it is regarded as a family day or an alternative Valentines day, companies are still looking to profit from this. Case and point Mos burger. Mos Burger is not alone in its’ advertising- KFC, convenience stores, every single supermarket etc are advertising their selections for Christmas day.
Amazingly, there are separate catalogs for the New Year’s meal and Christmas meal which considering these days are only a week apart is pretty amazing.
There is a slight downside to the special Christmas meals: the price. A 8 piece chicken meal with commemorative plate is a mere 4100 JPY (4000 JPY if ordered before December. The Mos Burger meal is cheaper but it only includes chicken and no extras but it is still 1375 JPY for the small (i.e. 1 person meal).
Will I be ordering anything at all this festive season? No. I will stick with my diet and save money (sending gifts back to the UK is expensive enough).
Advent is a christian festival where they count down until Christmas and this idea of counting down to Christmas was made into the advent calendar. Each and every day, you open a card window and enjoy a little sugar rush of delicious chocolate (which is so much better than the advent candle approach where you watch a candle burn).
Traditionally, advent calendars are only found in countries with a strong christian history. Even though it could be argues that Japan has a long history of Christianity (of about 400 years), Japan is mostly secular.
Imagine my surprise, therefore, when I saw these advent calendars in Aeon of Disney characters and (even more surprisingly) a traditional Christmas scene.
The product features German, French and English but not Japanese. To ensure that I wasn’t going mad, I asked my Japanese colleague about advent calendars and they gave me a look of confusion and asked what it was (well more I told them what it was).
I have previously reported on this sort of product only being featured in Japan once it had been changed to reflect more of the culture, but this seems to be an complete abnormality in this area. I will need to look into this further, but advent calendars are as strange as I in Japan it seems.
When I was last in Japan 5 years ago as a 留学生 (ryuugakusei or foreign exchange student) in Nagoya, Christmas seemed more like a passing interest- it was something un-Japanese and not really important. Only Daiso had anything christmas related; not anymore.
The Christmas industry in Japan has exploded. Every shop from convenience stores offering food to order, clothes stores with Christmas related items to furniture stores offering decorations.
You cannot even escape it in Aeon. Although they have no current visible christmas products, they are self advertising products to order with Christmas music playing, which is a bit too soon.
Never mind 七五三 (shichigosan, a festival where children go to shrines, post to come) on the 15th, I imagine that Christmas fever will just intensify starting November 1st.