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Old Oct 1, 16, 11:30 am
Join Date: Jul 2010
Posts: 2,006
Originally Posted by ksandness View Post
December is the season for bounenkai, literally "forget the year" parties, most of them sponsored by companies and organizations and held in restaurants or kaikan "meeting halls."

You will see decorations and suggestions for presents in the department stores, but adults do not exchange gifts except with people to whom they have an obligation according to the Japanese social system. Children receive money on New Year's Day.

While Christmas Eve is the big night for going out on the town (sort of like New Year's Eve in the West), Christmas Day is just another day and not a legal holiday. It may or may not coincide with the schools' winter vacation or with the year-end shutdown that some businesses practice.

You may hear Christmas carols on PA systems or on TV. The odd thing about the religious ones is that they were mostly translated under the guidance of early missionaries, who thought that the archaic classical form of Japanese was more suitable for Christmas carols and hymns than the actual spoken language. However, the Japanese lyrics to "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer" are in modern Japanese.

New Year's Eve and New Year's Day are home-centered observances. The activities most accessible to foreigners are the shrine visits at midnight on New Year's Eve. In the days leading up to December 31, you may notice an increase in the number of drunks on the trains as people return home from their bounenkai.
We stumbled upon a festive Xmas market outside the Umeda Sky Bldg in Osaka late-November. You can't really discern from the photo but the stalls were filled with festive ornaments and trinkets, there were gingerbread cookies and candy canes, spiced wines and ciders, one vendor was even roasting large Christmas hams! There were Japanese carolers (much to my surprise!) and people dressed in costumes ranging from elves to snowflakes; they even had a mini market for fir trees. All the while holiday jingles played on loop throughout the square. It was pretty surreal and looked like something out of Berlin or Munich. Really odd to see, and yet, somehow very Japanese.

Last edited by OliverB; Oct 1, 16 at 1:39 pm
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