Merry! Happy Xmas

The marvels of technology – I’m writing my blog as I sit on the bullet train from Tokyo to Nagoya. I had a good weekend in Tokyo – the main purpose of which was to see a concert with Tomo. We saw Shiina Ringo at the Saitama Super Arena. More on that later.

Christmas is a big season here. As I’ve said before, there always seems to be a season. Right now it is Christmas season. But wait, Japan is not generally a Christian society. Hey, that doesn’t stop Xmas. It might discourage Christmas, but Xmas is in full glory.

I’ve been here plenty of times around Christmas. The decorations start coming out in shops around the middle of November. I’ve never been here on Christmas or just after, but I’m guessing the decorations come done December 26. I’m not sure what the target audience is or the reason for the decorations. I think basically the main purpose is to stimulate retail. The decorations are centered around large department stores and shopping areas. But even hotels and major office buildings have some decorations.

I don’t think there is really any tradition of exchanging gifts on Christmas Day. However, it is sort of a date holiday – akin to Valentine’s Day or White Day? One of the things to do is to plan a nice dinner and book a hotel room for the night. Why? I don’t know.

The lights and decorations, though, are spectacular. Different places try to outdo each other so the lights get really nice. Some are synchronized to music, some tell stories, some just use a lot of electricity. You also get the opportunity to see some interesting combinations of words. In Nagoya we had Happy! Merry Xmas and sometimes Happy! Merry Christmas. Both were sponsored by Meitetsu Department Store.

Happy! Merry Xmas somehow ties in to WALL-E. I’m not sure how.

Happy!  Merry Xmas

JR Takashimaya department store put together a remarkable light display in front of the station with a large light display on the side of the building.

In front of JR station


Storybook time


Big storybook time


Of course, there are special Christmases for gifted people.

Only for the gifted



Later Breaking News: OK, so I wrote the bit above on November 30. Now it is actually December 2. I have started to teach an English class for 30 minutes at lunch time once a week. I’ve been going to watch another class as well. Today, the discussion was on the Christmas tradition in Japan. I got some interesting stories. Basically, there is a little bit of gift exchange, mostly parents to children. The legend of Santa Claus is around in Japan as well. We asked how Santa arrives – through the chimney seemed quite unlikely. The students / colleagues simply cocked their heads and said, “Maybe through the front door?”

Japan does have many nice decorations. A few I saw in Tokyo are below.

Shinjuku Christmas decoration


Shinjuku Christmas decoration


Shiodome Christmas decoration



While I was out and about with my friend Jin on Saturday night, we stumbled across the Tori-no-ichi (Good Luck Rake Fair) at the Hanazono Shrine in Shinjuku. The fair, “Tori-no-Ichi (Good Luck Rake Fair) is held at Otori Shrines in Tokyo and Hanazono Shrine in Shinjuku-ku on certain days in November every year. Kumade (bamboo rakes) adorned with ornaments symbolizing good fortune and prosperous business are sold at dozens of stalls almost all day long on the fair days. The biggest Tori-no-Ichi in scale is the one held at Otori Shrine in Taito-ku.” It was crazy-crowded, with the usual festival fair.



Kumade booth


Jin buying snack

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