A Convoluted Christmas

Less than 1% of the Japanese population is Christian however that hasn’t stopped the retail establishments from recognizing a shopping opportunity that would make Santa hurl coal at department store door fronts. If the Jewish culture had a mascot around which to rally, I would expect to see the Festival of Lights fully represented as well. Curmudgeon me shoved aside joyful holiday shoppers to snap this shot:

Then I unhitched my trusty dog Max from the Grinch sled and asked “Andretti-san,” one of the fastest drivers in Japan and culture consultant for all Ouisar questions, the viewpoint of Christmas by the average Japan inhabitant.

Andretti-san–      “Christmas is for lovers.”

Language barrier perhaps?

Ouiser- “You mean Valetine’s Day?”

Andretti-san–    “No- you know- people who love each other. And children. And there is                                  Santa.

Apparently American exports aren’t in as bad of shape as previously reported, we’ve shipped materialism to Japan.

Signs of Christmas are everywhere although in an altered form. Some of the Christmas decorations remind me of the “Whisper Down the Lane” game- Someone starts the game by telling a secret, it is whispered to next person and so on until the end. The last person compares what was told to them vs what the originator whispered in the beginning of the game. A metamorphosis of the secret is the result. As Big Patti (my mother) says- “That’s how damn lies get started.”

Following are a few of the more memorable decorations I’ve seen.

Santa arrived, but he’s wearing blue. Apparently either he or the Japanese prefer him in this hue since he is often seen in Japan wearing it.

The necessary components are present- balls, tree, stars- but upside down since the star(s) is on the bottom.

What would the holiday season be without a tree? Even my Jewish friends have one- which is removed when the in-laws arrive.  Rockefeller center, the White House all boast trees with a pristine Americana pedigree. Lately these have come under fire for not being “green”. The US public must watch the lighting of countless giant trees and endure cities competing for greenest tree in the greenest city of all…. I think I found their Japanese counterpart. This is a really large specimen of the fir genus and species with Christmas decorations and a message that proclaims “Christian” sentiments of Christmas to a predominately Buddhist and Shinto population. It looks to me like it was a recycled version. I can hear the rationale now- ” We’ve got to cut this tree down for a building- I know, let’s use it for one of those big American type Christmas trees- it sort of has the right shape.”

I was able to take many of these shots due to an annoying habit of having a camera on my person at all times. Luckily I had my camera when this reindeer encounter presented itself.

I wonder the reaction if I wore this to a party?


One of the Shibuya decorations has been getting quite a lot of attention. It is beautiful in a decorative way, although I haven’t found its connection to Christmas.

One important thing I’ve learned about the Japanese. As a culture, she will embrace a concept and develop or improve it in ways that leave one wondering why it hadn’t been done before. Once engaged on an idea, no people in the world is better at producing a quality product, with gadgetry no one realized was needed until it became a “Must have” post installment, all components working absolutely right,  with little nuances added to make it “just a little better.” So I was not surprised upon my escape from the crowded shopping streets to see tasteful decorations in the lesser known areas of Tokyo. Holiday decorations that reflected the style, simplicity, and attitude of the Japanese combined with the sentiments of the season.



Christmas cards aren’t exchanged in Japan. As required in a new country, flexibility in adjusting to the new traditions is a must. The Clampett Holiday card has gone through a metamorphosis of its own in order to incorporate our family members all over the globe. Please enjoy the attached photo montage in lieu of the traditional pic. Have a wonderful Holiday,


the Clampetts

The Hurricane posing patiently while the Nose figures out the IPhone. It is Dec 2010.

Hog- far left- assuming guard duties of a new treehouse.

Truffles- who’s more scared? Truffles or Santa?

It wouldn’t be Japan without a “Hello Kitty” appearance. The Offspring.

Happy Holidays!

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2 Responses to A Convoluted Christmas

  1. Lovely, thank you for such great photos. Love the Japanese attitude of adopting other’s celebrations and making them their own. One day, I hope to visit their wonderful country.


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