Monday, December 14, 2009

Christmas Boots Filled with Snacks!

During the Christmas season in Japan, Christmas boots filled with snacks appear at general supermarkets. Special spaces for them are set up near the entrances of these supermarkets. Various boots are stacked in piles. Actually, they've been popular since I was little many many years ago, although apart from standard boots, the cartoon characters that are put on them often change. Every time I see them, I wonder how well they sell. However, given the long popularity, they are attractive to children and convenient for mothers when they have Christmas parties for children.

This year, these boots appear to be less luxurious. The piles of them are smaller. The current recession has greatlyinfluenced everything.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Unique ? Weird? Christmas in Japan --part 2: Christmas for unmarried young people

In Japan, Christmas is a special event for young unmarried people. Many of them really want to spend their romantic Christmas with their boy/girlfriends. Some of them fiercely look for someone to date for it if they don’t have boy/girlfriends. They appear to feel unbearably lonely if they spend Christmas Day without a lover. When the economy was good, many young couples had an excellent Christmas dinner and spent their romantic nights at high-class hotels. Many young women received expensive gifts from their boyfriends. Some couples went on short skiing or snow boarding trips. Some couples spent Christmas at Disneyland in Tokyo. Although few young people can afford such luxurious Christmas celebrations these days (thanks to the economic downturn), they seem to enjoy their romantic Christmas in various ways based on their incomes.

When I was a college student many years ago, young couples already considered Christmas special. I don’t know how or when it became special to young people, but I can think of a few possible reasons. The first one is that in order to boost their sales, many businesses created enough of an special atmosphere to convince young people that Christmas was special. Actually, it has been highly commercialized here. In addition, young people used to be the most attractive target, although these days, they are not the driving force of consumption anymore. The next one is that you are free to arrange your own Christmas plan however you want since it is neither a traditional nor a religious event for the majority of Japanese. The final reason is that the 23rd of December became a national holiday when our current emperor ascended to the Chrysanthemum Throne 20 years ago because that day is his birthday. Since then, it has been easier to take a few days off around Christmas although we don’t have any Christmas holidays. This has made people pay more attention to Christmas.

Finally, I’ll introduce the TV commercials that had great influence on young people. These were broadcast from 1988 to1992 by JR Central (JR 東海) in order to boost the number of passengers on bullet trains (Shinkansens/新幹線) between Tokyo and Osaka. The song in this commercial is still very popular as a Christmas song. The second version was the most impressive to me (there are five different versions in the YouTube video). Incidentally, the Japanese economy was good from 1988 to 1992.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Unique ? Weird? Christmas in Japan --part 1

Christmas in Japan is probably unique. Since the majority of Japanese people are not Christians, we don’t celebrate it. Christmas is highly commercialized and seen as an enjoyable event. In this sense, Christmas has firmly rooted in the Japanese society, and we have been familiar with it. However, I don’t know exactly how and when Christmas was introduced to Japan.

Within the last 10 days, as a part of their holiday decorations、big Christmas trees have appeared everywhere, mainly in shopping malls. Many of these trees appear to be less gorgeous and bright than usual. When I saw them, I wondered if the economic downturn has probably influenced these trees. I think that for Japanese people, Christmas means enjoying Christmas decorations, romantic illuminations and atmosphere. During December, when you enter any stores or restaurants, you will immediately put you in a Christmas mood. Many people put up Christmas decorations in their houses. In the last decade, lighting up your house has become popular, although it's still not a common occurrence.

In Japan, around Christmas Day, we don't enjoy family gatherings and don't exchange Christmas gifts. Speaking of Christmas gifts, many people may think of gifts given by Santa Clause. Almost all the small children believe that Santa Claus exists. They usually find their gifts from Santa Clause beside their beds when they wake up on the 25th of December. 

From the beginning of November, mothers start asking their small children what they want Santa Claus to bring to them, and they prepare the Christmas gifts. During this period, I often hear mothers telling their children that if they don’t study hard enough (or something like that), Santa clause won’t bring gifts to them. Needless to say, once the children realize that Santa Clause doesn’t exist, they cannot receive their Christmas gifts from Santa Clause any more.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

The Top 10 Words Describing the Japan of 2009

There is less than a month left this year. In Western courtiers, many people are already busy preparing for Christmas. In Japan, we don’t have the custom of celebrating Christmas since the majority of Japanese people are not Christians. In December, we are busy preparing for our most important, traditional event/festival the “New Year’s Holidays”, and there are various events through which we look back on the year that is coming to an end.

Yesterday, the top 10 winners of the 2009 buzzwords and new words of the year contest were announced. Since these words reflect the social conditions of the year, many people pay attention to the contest. The grand prize was awarded to “政権交代/ Change of administration/government" which was used over and over by our current Prime Minister until the last election in August. Unlike the results in previous years, this year, there were three words relating to politics in the top 10 words, which shows that we cannot talk about the Japan of 2009 without discussing the change of administration and the policies of the new government.
The other two words relating to politics were 脱官僚/debureaucratizing or debureaucratization and 事業仕分け/project classification. The former was a campaign slogan used by a remarkable politician. The latter is a very hot phrase. The new government, in order to review the entire national budget, held an open meeting for 9 days, and the meeting ended only a few days ago. Among about 3000 taxpayer-financed projects, the government first picked out 477 projects in which there were uncertainties and the need to review their budgets. The 477 projects were discussed in the meeting. Only an hour was allocated to each project. The bureaucrats and other people in charge of projects answered questions asked by members of the meeting, who had been chosen by the government. They also had to deliver effective presentations within that hour to persuade the members to approve their budgets. Anyone was able to watch the meeting at the meeting place and through live blogs. Although the meeting is controversial among specialists, politicians and the other people involved, it’s been reported that the majority of the public shows afavorable attitude toward the open meeting. It’s true that the meeting led to many people becoming more interested in how and for what their taxes have been used.