There is a new housing estate behind us called Megumigaoka. It is an interesting place in itself. None of the houses are remotely Japanese or even functionally modern. It is a kind of theme park of Japanese fantasies of foreignness: a hodgepodge of American West timber ranch houses, Mediterranean villas and Alpine ski lodges. These kinds of estates are everywhere in Japan nowadays. They seem to be built for young professional families. Why people want to live in these theme parks is an interesting question. Maybe they are just fun.
Anyway, what certainly is fun is the Christmas decoration that seems to go with these houses. Megumigaoka is a mass of neon at the moment. Every other house seems to be decked out in the most amazing displays. Three houses in a row, in the middle of the estate, have gone particularly bonkers. Terrible pictures taken with my mobile but:
I think this is new. Ten years ago, when I was last here, Christmas was celebrated a bit. It was a kind of imported consumer festival, similar in feeling to the Americanised Halloween that has become popular in the UK: meaningless really, but a bit of fun. At the moment in Japan, Christmas seems to be getting bigger. It is still essentially meaningless, still consumerist, but bigger and a lot brasher. I'm not sure I'm talking about all that goes with Christmas in the West. The food, the presents, in fact much of what you would expect to happen on the day itself, are all pretty low key, if they happen at all. Perhaps it is just the decorations that are becoming a thing among a certain group of people.
When I think about it, this weirdly displaced Japanese version of Christmas may say something about the Christmas I know. It seems very familiar. Of course, there is a family get-together aspect to Christmas in the UK that is really meaningful. This has its equivalent in the Japanese New Year celebrations. But what of the public festival? This Oriental Christmas ain't so different from our own religion-shorn Christmas, festooned with imported traditions like Christmas trees and turkeys and Coca-Cola red Santas and such like. Perhaps the only difference is that Japan's version does not claim to be "authentic". Or is that just how it seems to me? Maybe it does or will?