Thursday, November 25, 2010
It’s around this time of year that those of us from “western” countries tend to start thinking of holidays and how we are going to spend them. In a previous entry we looked at Halloween and how it`s an example of a western festival slowly encroaching into Japanese culture. These days there are many more holidays and festivals from overseas being observed in Japan.
The biggest and most high-brow example has to be Christmas. The non-secular nature of Christmas these days is common everywhere. In Japan Christmas has been spun into a sort of extra Valentine’s Day in which spending time with your significant other on Christmas Eve seems to be the most important act. For those looking for the more traditional Christmas experience, more and more restaurants and hotels are catering to the expat community by offering traditional western-style Christmas dinners with all the trimmings. While only a very small percentage of Japan’s population is Christian, major cities usually contain several churches where midnight mass and Christmas day services are open to the general public.
A similar holiday for any Americans present in Japan is Thanksgiving. Although there is no similar equivalent in Japanese culture, Americans living and working in Japan can still enjoy a traditional thanksgiving dinner. Similar to Christmas, many restaurants that cater towards foreign clientele in cities like Tokyo and Osaka offer special Thanksgiving menus. Bookings usually need to be made very early as seating is often very limited.
Over recent decades there have been an increasingly diverse range of foreigners moving into Japan. These migrants and visitors often bring their festivals and traditions with them. For instance, large numbers of Indonesian factory workers have boosted the number of Muslims in Japan. This has made observance of Ramadan and its rules necessary in some workplaces. Brazilian migrant workers who arrived for work in the car assembly industry of cities like Nagoya have introduced Brazilian carnivals and festivals to that city as well as to other parts of Japan. The size-able Chinese community in places like Yokohama’s China-town has made Chinese New Year a huge event in the area.
While mostly contained to major cities, it is increasingly becoming easier to celebrate or observe a wide variety of festivals and holidays in Japan.