Saturday, December 18, 2010

Christmas (カリスマス) in Japan

What do you know? My absolute favourite holiday of the year - the birthday of Jesus - is drawing near. To my eternal regret, I will not be able to visit my beloved adopted country for the holiday season this year (since I already took my mandatory year end trip to the island of Formosa). I have such fond memories of my 2008 and 2009 visits which were filled with so much Christmas spirit that I would like to reminisce a little in this post.

A residential street light up in Kobe

Which is weird considering that anything from 84% to 96% (according to Wikipedia) of the population are practitioners of the Shinto and Buddhist religions. But I suppose one can argue that Christmas has become such a commercialised holiday everywhere in the world (but not to ME!) that it is no surprise that my Japanese relatives, living at the heart of Commercial City, will embrace the season of ringing retail tills with open arms.

Glittering trees outside the Shinagawa Prince Hotel in 2008 - looked like they were dressed up in diamonds.

Whatever their motivation, the Japanese do not do anything in halves. While in Singapore we have synchronised (and normally blah) light-ups of the main shopping districts, in Japan we have individual and often quirky light ups and the quaintest decorations at hotels, shopping centres, train stations, residential streets etc. Although I have not personally experienced them, I have watched on television how small Japanese towns come together to build a wonderland of lights and snow for the festive season. (Something on my list of Japan "to-dos" for the future.)

A very beary Christmas at Takashimaya at Kyoto's Shijo shopping street.

Of course, weather plays a big part as well. It is difficult to feel very "Christmas-sy" in Singapore when one is sweltering under the tropical heat, but in Japan, where the air is cold and crisp (or freezing depending on where you are), and I am bundled under layers of clothes, I never felt the Christmas spirit more. Hopefully I will be back in Japan next winter, fingers crossed! And in the meantime......

みなさん、マリカリスマス。Merry Christmas Everyone, and God Bless!

2009 Christmas decorations at Namba Parks, one of the high end shopping malls in Osaka.

Stunning lights - the ground seemed scattered with stars, and I was transported to another world. 

A gigantic musical Christmas tree at the Kyoto JR station. Instead of Christmas songs, they were playing "Say Yes" by Chage and Aska!

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