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Merry Christmas... sort of  

Illustration by Dot.  

As November draws to a close, chronology dictates that December is not far behind. And with December comes the Christmas season. My heart grows heavy, and my brows begin to furrow, as there are few things I dread more than Christmas in Japan.

On Christmas Eve, trains will be packed to shame any weekday morning. Every single road on the map will be fender-to-fender. Cell phone lines will cease to function, due to an overload of calls being made by couples trying to find each other in packed train stations. Oh, and don’t even bother trying to find a hotel room. Yes, Christmas Eve in this country frightens me to the very core.

For those of you who have just arrived in Japan, Christmas here has been turned into some kind of second Valentine’s Day. Spending Christmas Eve alone is the most degrading thing in the world for a young person in Japan. Apparently, the correct way to spend Christmas is to go out to an overpriced restaurant (usually of the French or Italian variety) with a member of the opposite sex, and then, after a few minor detours and an exchange of overpriced gifts, to end up in an overpriced hotel room with a view and share more than just presents.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a cultural Scrooge. Even (or do I mean especially?) as a former resident of the US, I can live with the overdone shopping mall displays that are cheesy enough to put the entire state of Wisconsin to shame (anyone been to Shinjuku station recently?). I will accept it if the Japanese advertising industry chooses to conjure up a singular spelling of the holiday (Merry Xmas, everyone!).

I observe with a blend of amusement and disbelief the distinctly Japanese (commercial sector-generated) custom of combining strawberry shortcake (don’t forget to light the birthday candles and blow them out while making a wish) and Kentucky Fried Chicken (make sure you reserve it well in advance, or you might have to stand in line for two hours to get the 12-piece party pack) on the Christmas dinner menu. Good food with atmosphere for two on Christmas Eve may be arguably understandable, even if said food is eaten in a packed restaurant that must be reserved anywhere from two to three months in advance and is priced about as twice as high as it would be any other time of year. However, I tend to find the hotel room bit two steps short of absolutely incomprehensible, especially given the nature of the birth being celebrated in this case.

So I think, in order to avoid the traffic and the misplaced hype, I will spend Christmas Eve at my parents’ house, where my mother will cook a nice meal while I gaze with nostalgia at the Christmas tree decorated with elementary school art project ornaments, come back to my apartment, and go to bed early. I already know I have to show up for work the very next day, and put up with people in the workplace discussing how non-degrading their Christmas Eve was. My BS tolerance level tends to go down when I’m sleep deprived.

Many thanks to Yukiko Miura for this Rant.

Metropolis Online
381: The Crisp Linen Suit Syndrome
Unbearable heat and crisp linen suits
380: Smile
Smile when you see another foreigner
379: What sign are you?
When signs start to complicate life
378: Off with the gloves
Battle of the readers
377: Stop before you shop
Stores that scare away gaijin
376: Home sweet home
Modern housing in Japan?
375: Nihonjinron
Theories of Japaneseness and insecurity
374: Plastic bags
Do we really need them for everything?
373: Doctor knows best?
A scary visit to a Japanese hospital
372: Don't forget the finger wagger
So you've never complained about Japan?
371: A-choob tale
The Sneezing Salaryman
370: The gaijin language snob
Dare to cross his path
369: Nihongo
One man's struggle...
368: Making sense of Roppongi
Why do I keep going back?
367: Hateus Japanus Expatricus
Great bar bores of the world
366: Plants and animals
Darwin's turning in his grave
365: No more groping - for now
Women only train cars
364: Man's best friend
Pets have it rougher
363: In praise of Tokyo taxi drivers
A good ride all around
362: The Big Boot Brigade
Masters of the oversized-shoe
361: The case of the missing garbage cans
Where art thou o garbage can?
360: Ramen for the soul
Japanese chicken soup
359: Revenge of the nerds Part II
Geeky guys with hot girls
358: Little old ladies
Grandmas packing a punch
357: Starbucks sanctuary
Stop the Starbucks insanity
356: Pet name problem
My sweet little... carrot?
355: Unclean Jeans
Jeans McNasty
354: My chosen profession
Lindsay Nelson's the name, English teaching's the game
352/3: Merry Christmas... sort of
Merry and not-so-Merry Christmas in Japan
351: Last temptation of rice crackers
Breaking big bills the hard way
350: Revenge of the nerds
Gaijin girls are just jealous

ISSUES 300-349
ISSUES 250-299
ISSUES 233-249