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Christmas eve in Tokyo

Dec 24, 2013

I am finding Christmas eve in Tokyo is a little surreal. All the marketing is there, the carols in the shops, the Christmas lights and the trees. There's hundreds[1] of people leaving the shops laden with 'the gift(s)'. All the traditional Western commercial Christmas vibe is there, yet, for me, something seems to be missing.

Perhaps it is religion, which is missing insofar as Christianity isn't a big thing. In fact if there were to be a dominant religion it would be the Shinto and Japanese Buddhism hybrid known as Shinbutsu Shūgō, however about 70% of Japanese do not claim to religious practice[2]. However, for me, this isn't the thing missing largely because I am not religious and the type of person who prefers to acknowledge the Summer/Winter solstice. In fact Christmas day is just another day here, not a public holiday. The big celebration is New Years.

Perhaps it's because I'm living in another country and family is far away. This year we'll be having Christmas sans family. However, this isn't the missing thing either. Reason is we have a very rudimentary model of celebrating Christmas: one year with my family, one with Shellie's, one with friends, and one on our own. As a result, while touching base with family does occur on Christmas day, at least 50% of the time it isn't spent with family.

Is it the temperature? This will be our first Winter Christmas. It won't be a white Christmas thankfully as the snow has not yet fallen in Tokyo. It threatened a week or so ago but looks like sunny days ahead. I write thankfully as we're having a hard time keeping warm at times. We have a ready supply of heating, however the building insulation isn't the best, so it can be very expensive to keep the heating on all the time. However, while we are missing summer, the idea of an outside barbecue, I don't think that is the thing. Despite some challenges staying warm, I'm finding the experience of a Winter Christmas quite different, and thus nice.

OK, if not religion, family, or temperature, what is it? It's pottering in the yard! Yep, I'm missing being able to get out in the backyard; care for the garden, pick fruit of the trees & vines. I'm living in an apartment and am missing gardening. While we do have a couple of pot plants and are growing some seeds, it is Winter, so things grow slowly. Also, it isn't quite the same as getting out into the yard, seeing something "to fix", grabbing a power-tool or ripping up to Bunning's to get a new one. I'm missing the pottering in the yard that normally happens over Christmas; either frantically preparing the house because you've got guests, or getting it clean so when you get home from a trip there's less to do. Below are two pictures, one of the apartment (we're top floor, just to the left of the lift well), and the view out from our apartment.

So Christmas is different this year, a different experience. This is a great thing, as it is drawing my attention to the things that I miss, as well as introducing me to things I would not have tried before. Perhaps I need to workout how I can potter in an apartment :)


Foot notes

  1. The population of Tokyo is around 13.5million, 50% of the population of Australia within a land area around the size of Sydney. This means shopping here during peak times is certainly an experience. I'll think Boxing Day sales in any Australian capital city quiet from this point.
  2. While there is a range of documentation sources on Japan, I find from time to time you can't go past a quick Wikipedia entry, this one, Religion in Japan.

Tags: Japan, Christmas
Category: Japan

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