Sex, Ukeleles, Gadgets...and more!
December 25, 2003 8:27 AM   Subscribe

Have a merry, sex and gadget filled hyper-commercialized Japanese Christmas. "Well it all started when a Spanish Jesuit missionary named St. Francis Xavier brought Christmas to Japan in 1549...." The Jesuit bid to Christianize Japan was a flop though, and now - while Jews in the West, for example, tend to go out for Chinese food on Christmas Eve, the Japanese had little connection to the Christian version - so they invented their own! Syncretistic Japan pulls in random elements of Western "Christmas" and recombines in pleasing new ways! ( shocking only to Christians ). Santa Claus on the Cross and more!

A proper Christmas in Japan - for singles - involves a hot date and visit to a "Love Hotel" where "you might be directed by scantily-clad female elves to rooms complete with Christmas trees and life-size reindeer watching the proceedings with interest." and "Grope Free Commutes", for Japanese women tired of having their asses grabbed on the subway by drunk salarymen returning from "Forget the Year" parties. This fine blog chronicles it all: " the Dolphin-and-fish-surrounded Christmas tree", Ukelele Christmas parties - "I wandered into a score of middle aged Japanese ladies wearing Hawaiian shirts and plastic lays, tuning up their ukuleles" and more. And don't forget to buy some cool new gadgets. "...a tiny robot helicopter weighing less than 9 grams... "
posted by troutfishing (19 comments total)

Fantastic post, troutfishing - I actually felt as if I'd gone away for the day. As usual, I think the Japanese have cottoned on to the least boring aspects of something Western.

I loved reading all the links but don't really have any useful comment to make, except "Thank you". Early Portuguese-Japanese cultural exchanges were far more fruitful and important than the emphasis on religion suggests - you know, gunpowder, tempura, the tea ceremony, et cetaera...
posted by MiguelCardoso at 11:04 AM on December 25, 2003

Those wacky Japanese eh? What will they think of next?
posted by dydecker at 12:09 PM on December 25, 2003

Christmas, as a concept, is not terribly well understood in Japan. In the blunder to end all cultural blunders, a prominent department store once allegedly erected a Christmas display of a Santa nailed to a cross!

See Snopes for some interesting background on this story.
posted by Ljubljana at 1:53 PM on December 25, 2003

This post brings back some funny memories of Christmas in Tokyo for me. Thanks.

Also, when I lived there in the mid-80s, single women over age 25 or so were sometimes referred to as Christmas cakes (read the 4th paragraph).
posted by MrBaliHai at 1:55 PM on December 25, 2003

It ain't Christmas in Japan without Colonel Sanders and love hotels.

That said, most of the wild and wacky stuff you read about Japan on Ananova and Mainichi Wai Wai is far from the norm. It's like making an impression of the US from reading the Weekly World News.
posted by gen at 3:13 PM on December 25, 2003

Yeah, I gotta say that Japan is not nearly as wacky as it gets made out to be, especially on Metafilter every other day. It gets a little old reading about it all the time, but I guess if I wasn't interested, I wouldn't have moved here. Of course Christmas is not a tradition here. And people everywhere are always looking for an excuse to shop and be romantic, not just Japanese people. It seems a lot of the familial stuff that we do on Christmas in the Christian parts of the world is done on New Year's here. Christmas is definitely a couple's holiday. To me the funniest thing here is seeing the KFC ads, with an ├╝ber-white family extolling a big greasy bucket Kentucky Fried Chicken as the proper, traditional Christmas Dinner and centerpiece of the holiday. I can't wait to hear everyone's reaction to Valentine's Day in Japan in a few months.

By the way, its the 26th now, and I am eating Christmas Cake, and it is still good. And (apparently like Jews in America) I did eat Chinese food last night, ramen.
posted by donkeymon at 3:41 PM on December 25, 2003

It's nice to see the old chestnuts roasting on the open hibachi every year, the othering of the wacky and inscrutable Japanese.
posted by planetkyoto at 3:55 PM on December 25, 2003

Right, since we never have any shocking, dubiously valid stories posted here about those wacky American holiday customs.
posted by transona5 at 5:38 PM on December 25, 2003

A proper Christmas in Japan - for singles - involves a hot date and visit to a "Love Hotel"


Pretty lame.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 7:35 PM on December 25, 2003

Miguel - Thanks.

stavros - Y'know, I'm in "non-empirical mode". It was a light, cheesy post, and I like laconic humor. I'm not trying to be the anthropologist on this one, really.

"the wacky and inscrutable Japanese" - I actually think they are just having fun. And I find this hilarious to the extent that emerging Japanese Christmas traditions - which have little to do with Christianity - are shocking to Christians.
posted by troutfishing at 7:55 PM on December 25, 2003

Cheese can be a delicious and nutritional treat.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 8:35 PM on December 25, 2003

Stavros - As Frank Zappa noted, "Americans choose cheese" - I know that the British also tend to choose cheese. And - US/anglo vs. continental tensions aside - the French choose cheese as well (Jerry lewis?....) - Do Koreans chose cheese so much?
posted by troutfishing at 10:04 AM on December 26, 2003

At least the Japanese have the excuse of (largely) lacking the religious background of the holiday. What excuse does the US have for such over-commercialized Xmases?
posted by clevershark at 10:56 AM on December 26, 2003

I don't mind the occassional "wacky Japanese" post. Many visiting Japanese find plenty of wackiness in the U.S.A. to point to and giggle about. My experiences in Japan were often surreal, funny and disorienting. I like being reminded of those days.
posted by kozad at 11:12 AM on December 26, 2003

clevershark - It's all the fluoride in the water supply.

kozad - Surreal.........have you ever encountered the Anne of Green Gables phenomenon on Prince Edward Island? Although Anne has been linked to the brutal, historic slaughter of thousands of baby seals, her story nonetheless draws a steady stream of unaware Anne-worshipping tourists to PEI every year, especially from Japan, many dressed as Anne-lookalikes, but also from the whole world 'round. The "Anne of Green Gables" National Park on PEI is a great point of island pride - an obligatory stop on all well conceived package-tour itineraries, for "Anne is the symbol of the Island and the popularity of her story has spread throughout the world."

And speaking of surreal, what about that Welsh race-contest where contestants chase a wheel of Stilton rolling down a murderously steep hill?
posted by troutfishing at 2:55 PM on December 26, 2003

posted by homunculus at 3:23 PM on December 26, 2003

homunculus - that's the funniest thing I've seen all December, especially for the fact that the polar bear is so eagerly awaiting the salmon those Japanese Santa Clauses so proudly display.
posted by troutfishing at 5:07 PM on December 26, 2003

The bear is what makes it funny to me. Here's another, via Geisha Asobi.
posted by homunculus at 10:25 PM on December 26, 2003

homunculus - that one's even better. You've just helped me out of a tight spot. I'm going to make it into late Christmas cards with the punchline - "Late? Yes. But some things are worth waiting for!"
posted by troutfishing at 9:54 AM on December 27, 2003

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