Tuesday, December 05, 2006

The Megumigaoka Illuminations

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?


Anonymous said...

I can't quite figure out the Christmas lights thing in Japan or in England - it really seems to have exploded in recent years too.
As for the new houses, my main question would be "do they have central heating and air con?", if the answer is yes, then as far as I would be concerned all would be forgiven! By the way given their attraction to Christmas I assume all the houses have a chimney as standard.
Keep seeing the temperature charts for Tokyo on my Yahoo front page and shivering at my memory of the cold!!
I'm off now for breakfast in front to fht Aga...Ho!Ho!Ho!

kozappa said...

I don't think they have central heating...G. loves it though. He seems to think it is all good fun!

Anonymous said...

Actually they do have central heating, dish washers, hard wood floors, and all the other things you'd expext to find in a new modern style American home. As far as the Christmas lights go... I am from Canada and several of the houses here are owned by foreigners... The houses in the pictures are of some older couples homes, including the mayor, who just think the lights are pretty and they have lots of money to spare...so why not spread the Christmas cheer. Megumigaoka is a new style community that is very friendly and safe.