It’s the most wonderful time of the year!
Honestly, I was a little worried that December in Japan would be terribly depressing–no Christmas lights, no Christmas spirit, and no family to celebrate the holidays with. Then November arrived and my worries were put to rest: Japan LOVES Christmas. They love the lights, they love miniature Christmas trees, and they love blaring holiday songs in major shopping malls. It’s almost like being home, except for the prevalence of KFC Christmas chicken and the advertisements for strawberry-and-cream Christmas cakes.
It’s been fun to discover what they know about Christmas as well. For the past two weeks, I’ve been playing Christmas Jeopardy in many of my classrooms (with a short introductory PowerPoint covering important vocabulary and major traditions)… so here is what the typical Japanese high-school student knows about the holiday:
- Even after stressing that stockings are called “stockings,” my students still call them socks. Always.
- But for some reason, everyone knows that American children leave milk and cookies for Santa on Christmas Eve.
- The word “Candy Cane” is a struggle because they don’t seem to exist in Japan. So my students call them “Candy Sticks” or “Candy-Candy” or, inevitably, “Candy Crush!”
- When asked to name Christmas carols, the most popular (in order) are Jingle Bells, Last Christmas, and White Christmas.
- They only know one reindeer, and his name is apparently “Red Noze.”
- When asked what they will be doing over winter vacation, everyone replies that they will either “go ski” or “play ski.” So I expect the slopes in Nagano will be crowded.
- Even though I never review the word, everyone can correctly identify “snowman.”
- Most of my students know that Americans don’t eat Christmas cake (but most of my JTEs think that we do!)
- Stories like The Night Before Christmas and The Polar Express aren’t famous here. I had to delete questions about them, because students were mystified.
- When asked to name a Christmas movie, the only one that comes to mind is Home Alone.
Moving on from Christmas in the Classroom… a few weeks ago, J and I took a trip to Ashikaga Flower Park in Tochigi Prefecture to see the park’s “Winter Illuminations.” We honestly weren’t expecting too much… but then we arrived.
It turns out that Ashikaga Flower Park’s illuminations were voted one of the best in Japan last year, and they didn’t disappoint this year, either. It ended up being a perfect little evening excursion: we wandered around the park for three or so hours, marveling at all the lights and warming ourselves up with food truck fare, everything from corn soup and ramen to hot chocolate and sweet crepes.
Ashikaga Flower Park’s Fantasy illumination runs through February 4, 2016, so if you are in the area, be sure to check it out!