Photo Friday: Dusk

Colonel Santa, and other Christmas reflections.

Atomic Mutant Christmas Monster!

Master Right and I have just installed candles on the Adventskranz, and since we're a week late, we wonder which candles we should light; two adjacent ones, or two opposite ones? He looked it up on Japanese Google, and worked out that they should be two opposite candles. Christmas in an authentic Christian country delights him, and he's a stickler for getting it right.

Of course, the Japanese celebrate Christmas, too. Kinda.

December 25 is just another working day.
I rather looked forward to it the first time. Thanks to a few bad Christmases early in life, I'm a bah-humbug type who despises the cheap sentiment of the season. When the day finally arrived, though, I felt curiously unsettled by the lack of cheap sentiment to despise.

(It was totally worth it for the brownie points from my Japanese colleagues. Until then, no expat westerner, ever, had fronted up to the office on December 25.)

The time I spent living in Japan mellowed me toward the idea of Christmas. There, it's a much more innocent and lighthearted day, with parties, presents and decorations, and no special need for gross acts of uncalled-for goodwill to your fellow man.

Japanese halls are decked with boughs of holly--and twinkling lights, of course, as befits the world's largest manufacturer of electrical goods. Tokyo Tower (a chintzy tourist attraction near where we used to live) lays out a special Christmas Town display at the base of its very large tree. But this being Japan, we see a twinkling-light Godzilla attacking it.

Yurakucho was delicious. On to Shiba Park!

And the Japanese don't get the whole Santa Claus thing, either. Everybody wants to play Santa. Tokyu Hands, Japan's leading chain of homeware stores, devotes an entire department to Santa suits. Sometimes, you can walk into a Christmas party to find the whole room dressed in red, with white fur trim. I tried to explain to my Japanese friends: the thing which makes Santa special is that there's only one of him.
In the west, the heavyweight family/religious side of Christmas lightens up for the racy excess of New Year's Eve. In Japan, it's the other way around. With candle-light, mistletoe, and cuddling in front of the fake fire on DVD, Christmas becomes an ersatz Valentine's Day. Many courting couples choose Christmas Eve on which first to do the deed.

That means that many of these Christmas costumes are designed for seduction. Except the ones where you dress as a reindeer. (On second thought, given the sexual weirdness of he Japanese, perhaps a few closeted salarymen fantasize about cruising Finland for a great big sexy hunk of venison)

Christmas in Japan is little more than a great excuse for a party. One with unusual western food, gifts that don't require reciprocation (amazing!), elegant decor, twinkling lights, a cream cake and Kentucky Fried Chicken.

The last of these became a fully-fledged Christmas tradition because, apparently, the Colonel looks like Santa in civvies. Many confuse the word "Santa" with "Sanders". Makes perfect sense, no?

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