Christmas in Japan

 

 

 

 Here are two short programs that were presented on National Public Radio (NPR) regarding Christmas in Japan:

 

 

 

 

 

Japanese Christmas is more Commercial

and Much Less a Family-Oriented and Religious Affair

 

Eric Weiner

 

Morning Edition

National Public Radio

December 23, 1999, Thursday

                                            

 

 

BOB EDWARDS, host:

 

In Japan, less than 2 percent of the population is Christian, but that hasn't stopped the Japanese from celebrating Christmas. It's the most popular unofficial holiday

in Japan. In Tokyo, NPR's Eric Weiner investigated Christmas Japanese-style.

 

ERIC WEINER reporting:

 

Strolling in Tokyo's Ginza district, it's easy to forget that you're still in Japan. Just about every store window has a Christmas display, there are Christmas trees lining the streets.

 

We're going to go now and speak with a couple of young Japanese women dressed as elves and selling cellular phones. Let's see what they have to say.

 

 

 

:Ms. HITOMI FUJI: (Japanese spoken)

 

WEINER: 'We're trying to create the right Christmas mood so people buy more things,' says Hitomi Fuji(ph), adding that the red and white elf hat keeps her ears warm. 'I wish I could wear it all the time,' she says.

 

Make no mistake about it, Christmas in Japan is a commercial extravaganza. But no one here pretends it is anything else. As one harried shopper put it, 'Christmas has nothing to do with religion.' It has everything to do with retail sales. No small matter in Japan these days, the country is struggling to recover from its worst recession in more than 40 years.

 

WEINER: This Ginza store is doing a booming business selling all kinds of Christmas paraphernalia: overpriced Christmas stockings, overpriced Christmas trees and

one of the more popular items: the Rock-a-Long Santa(ph).

 

"SANTA": (singing) Have a holly-jolly Christmas.

 

WEINER: It's a two-foot-high automated Santa Claus doll that sways its hips side to side while belting out a country Western version of this popular Christmas song. He comes in a variety of outfits, including cowboy hat and Hawaiian shirt and retails for about $ 100. But even Rock-a-Long Santa can't compete with homegrown Japanese icons. Takaow Ishigima(ph) is the store manager.

 

Mr. TAKAOW ISHIGIMA: Yeah, most popular item is this one. This name is Hello Kitty. Very famous in Japan, the cartoon character.

 

WEINER: Cartoon characters of all kinds are immensely popular in Japan and they've been popping up in many traditional Christmas scenes.  A giant penguin called Pindu(ph) pops out of a box, part of a Christmas display in front of the Sony Building in Ginza. The Japanese began celebrating Christmas decades ago, but it's been getting more popular and lavish every year. In one Tokyo suburb, people have even begun decorating their homes with Christmas lights, attracting curious onlookers from miles away.

 

But Christmas celebrations in Japan have evolved a bit differently from those in the US. Instead of the traditional Christmas turkey or ham, the Japanese prefer a bucket of KFC chicken, though no one seems to know exactly how this custom came about. And among the best-selling Christmas items here are condoms--yes, condoms. For the Japanese, Christmas is not the time for a quiet family get-together; it's the time for a little romance. Journalist Junko Takahashi(ph) explains.

 

Ms. JUNKO TAKAHASHI: Especially for the couples. They go to the nice restaurant, have a special dinner and spend a romantic night. So if you don't have a partner, it's kind of miserable night.

 

WEINER: So you don't spend Christmas with your family?

 

Ms. TAKAHASHI: No. That's the most sad thing, you know. Spend the Christmas night with your family?

 

WEINER: The Japanese do have a holiday reserved for quiet family time. It's called New Year's Eve. Eric Weiner, NPR News, Tokyo.

 

 

 

 *          *          *          *          *

 

 
 

Christmas in  Japan

 

Eric Weiner

 

Weekly Edition

National Public Radio

December 25, 1999

 

 

 

NEAL CONAN, host:

 

Christmas in Japan offers temptations even more exotic than scrubby sponges. While the population is less than 1 percent Christian, the celebration has taken the country by storm, even if a few details have been lost in translation. We have a report from NPR's Eric Weiner.

 

ERIC WEINER reporting:

 

Strolling in Tokyo's Ginza district, it's easy to forget that you're still in Japan.

 

 

 WEINER: Just about every store window has a Christmas display. There are Christmas trees lining the streets.

 

We're going to go now and speak with a couple of young Japanese women dressed as elves and selling cellular phones. Let's see what they have to say.

 

Ms. HITOMI FUJI: (Japanese spoken)

 

WEINER: 'We're trying to create the right Christmas mood so people buy more things,' says Hitomi Fuji(ph), adding that the red and white elf hat keeps her ears warm. 'I wish I could wear it all the time,' she says.

 

Make no mistake about it, Christmas in Japan is a commercial extravaganza. But no one here pretends it is anything else. As one harried shopper put it, 'Christmas has nothing to do with religion.' It has everything to do with retail sales. No small matter in Japan these days, the country is struggling to recover from its worst recession in more than 40 years.

 

WEINER: This Ginza store is doing a booming business selling all kinds of Christmas paraphernalia: overpriced Christmas stockings, overpriced Christmas trees and one of the more popular items: the Rock-a-Long Santa(ph).

 

"SANTA": (Singing) Have a holly-jolly Christmas.

 

WEINER: It's a two-foot-high automated Santa Claus doll that sways its hips side to side while belting out a country Western version of this popular Christmas song. He comes in a variety of outfits, including cowboy hat and Hawaiian shirt and retails for about $ 100. But even Rock-a-Long Santa can't compete with homegrown Japanese icons. Takaow Ishigima(ph) is the store manager.

 

Mr. TAKAOW ISHIGIMA: Yeah, most popular item is this one. This name is Hello Kitty. Very famous in Japan, the cartoon character.

 

WEINER: Cartoon characters of all kinds are immensely popular in Japan and they've been popping up in many traditional Christmas scenes.  A giant penguin called Pindu(ph) pops out of a box, part of a Christmas display in front of the Sony Building in Ginza. The Japanese began celebrating Christmas decades ago, but it's been getting more popular and lavish every year. In one Tokyo suburb, people have even begun decorating their homes with Christmas lights, attracting curious onlookers from miles away.

 

But Christmas celebrations in Japan have evolved a bit differently from those in the US. Instead of the traditional Christmas turkey or ham, the Japanese prefer a bucket of KFC chicken, though no one seems to know exactly how this custom came about. And among the best-selling Christmas items here are condoms--yes, condoms. For the Japanese, Christmas is not the time for a quiet family get-together; it's the time for a little romance. Journalist Junko Takahashi(ph) explains.

 

Ms. JUNKO TAKAHASHI: Especially for the couples. They go to the nice restaurant, have a special dinner and spend a romantic night. So if you don't have a partner, it's kind of miserable night.

 

WEINER: So you don't spend Christmas with your family?

 

Ms. TAKAHASHI: No. That's the most sad thing, you know. Spend the Christmas night with your family?

 

WEINER: The Japanese do have a holiday reserved for quiet family time. It's called New Year's Eve.

 

 

 *          *          *          *          *

 

 

Here is another more recent article on the same topic.

 

 

 

Cultural Anthropology

 

 

 

Hit Counter