Sunday, April 08, 2007

Easter in Japan

Click on this image to see a full size (and readable comic), or, better yet, go to the Sheldon web site and read the comic for yourself (it is where I pinched the image from). It's worth the trip! My vote goes for the last panel, by the way.

The title of this post is rather misleading as there is really no Easter to speak of in Japan unless you're a church-going type (and there are relatively few of those in Japan). Unlike the other big ticket commercialized holidays (Christmas, Halloween), Easter has not yet made the transition to Japan's roster of western holidays.

It is actually rather curious that Easter hasn't been absorbed into Japanese culture as other holidays have. The Easter bunny is at least as appealing as Santa Claus, perhaps more so because bunnies are cuter than hefty old guys with swollen noses who wear red suits. It's an excellent opportunity for both Nippon Ham and the various candy companies to hawk more wares. Unlike Halloween, which has kids going from door-to-door to annoy people for free candy, the traditions of Easter would not be culturally unacceptable to the Japanese. Additionally, the Japanese love eggs and they're very good at decorating small objects. So, what's not to love about Easter in Japan?

I have several wild (and very likely incorrect) guesses as to why Easter has not been adapted for Japanese use. One is that it falls on or near the date of Buddha's birthday celebration on April 8 (which is also called the Flower festival or hana-matsuri). Maybe it seems tasteless to import a holiday about a religious figure's resurrection that falls close to another religious figure's birthday or maybe it seems like one secular holiday too many in early April.

Another guess is that someone just hasn't thought about it or did think of it in the past and it didn't take off when a confectioner attempted to sell Easter candy in the past. My final guess is that the whole notion of the sugar overload that often accompanies Easter is just not something the Japanese people would find appealing though I'd imagine modifications could be made.

Of course, I really have no idea why Easter hasn't been adopted by the Japanese. The only thing I'm pretty sure of is that there's no reason based on religion or respect keeping it out, particularly given the business potential. The Japanese confectioners have already imported Valentine's Day and added in White Day to sell more candy and they haven't avoided Christmas despite it being a Christian religious holiday.

For those who live in Japan and want to celebrate Easter, there are churches scattered around. In fact, in my neighborhood, there's an old video store that has been converted into a church. It's one of the ugliest churches ever because it's essentially an old one-story building with a blue and white painted sign slapped on the front of it. Still, I'm sure it fills the bill. If your main interest is the candy or decorating eggs or whatnot, you can always buy from the Foreign Buyer's Club Deli shop or hit one of the import shops in the gaijin ghetto areas of Tokyo.

That's my pet siege turtle to the left of my golden egg and my helpful centaur magician to the right. If only real life were so colorful... (Click the picture to get a bigger one which can be read).

For my part, I probably wouldn't even remember that Easter was at hand if it weren't for playing Guild Wars. For the Easter weekend, golden eggs and chocolate bunnies fell for us when we made a kill.

Happy Easter.

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