Monday, December 25, 2006

Christmas in Tokyo (2006)

A "Hello Kitty" papier mache figure at a tea shop in a Santa suit.

Since it's Christmas day, my husband and I decided to stroll around the neighborhood to see what the locals were up to. One thing we learned was that, by Christmas day, the holiday is essentially over for the Japanese because the commercial value has sufficiently diminished that it's far less worthwhile than the days leading up to the 25th. People have spent all the money they are going to on Christmas by this point. (As always, click any picture to see a much larger version.)

A Santa costume and various Christmas-themed headbands for sale at an accessories shop for young women and girls.

Last night, my husband passed by a Kentucky Fried Chicken shop and saw 40 people waiting in line to get their Christmas repast. He also saw the usual convenience store employees standing outside of 7-11 and others hawking Christmas cakes. Despite the fact that I've spent many Christmases in Japan, I've neither bought nor sampled a Christmas cake. I've asked my students if they usually have them and all of them say they do. One of them said the cakes are pretty poor quality as many of them are made far ahead of time, frozen, and then thawed before handing them over to customers.

Additionally, I've asked them if they give each other gifts and most adults do not. Most of them received one present on Christmas morning when they were children. Even if they had a tree, the gift was usually left near the futon. Most had trees though usually they were artificial. In the case of one of my students, she said her family had a real (about 4 feet tall) tree which they dug up and replanted every year so she had a rare experience with a live tree.

This sign was hanging in the shopping street we were walking along. It advertises a campaign where you could get chances to win either one of ten dinners for two at the Four Seasons Hotel or one of a hundred pairs of tickets for Disneyland or Disney Sea (hence the illustration of Santa next to a present with a dinner table and Mickey Mouse popping out of it). You could earn the chances by purchasing items from shops on this shopping street.

Our main goal in going out and about was to see what might be happening but our secondary goal was to visit the Baskin Robbins that had only recently opened up in the middle of the shopping street. I wanted to treat myself to some orange sherbet since no Japanese stores sell it and, hey, it's Christmas. My husband bought more properly festive blueberry gingerbread ice cream.

From previous experiences during Christmas, one thing we know for a fact is that every scrap that indicates the Japanese celebrate Christmas will vanish by tomorrow morning. It's like they are all set to self-destruct by midnight on the 25th. They're immediately replaced by traditional Japanese New Year's decorations so that the new cycle of sales can begin.

Addendum: I wanted to note I received a really lovely Christmas card from my friend Shawn on December 24th which helped boost my holiday spirit. I love the artwork as it reminds me of Calvin and Hobbes. I also like the joke. :-) Thanks again, Shawn.


Leo said...

I consider a trip to Baskin Robbins a holiday. Well, any trip to any ice cream shop. But I'm not leaving the house tomorrow. No way do I want to deal with all of those people doing more shopping or exchanging gifts at the shop.

Oh and the brownies were devoured in my class. Thanks for the recipe.

Shari said...

I think that the only time we tend to have ice cream is in moments of deep depression or holidays. ;-)

I'm really glad the brownies went over well. :-)