|RANT 'N' RAVE
Merry Christmas... sort of
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 dont 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 Valentines 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.
Dont get me wrong, Im 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 (dont 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 Im sleep
Many thanks to Yukiko Miura for this Rant.