Japanese Customs and Traditions – Christmas in Japan
The evangelization and initiation of the Christian Faith in Japan began in 1549, with the arrival of St. Francis Xavier. In the continuing years, the arrival of the Jesuits and other Missionaries tremendously spread the Faith all across Japan, by the year 1587. Thus, appeared in this beautiful country; the Feast of the Nativity of Jesus Christ (most commonly known as Christmas or Mass celebrated in honor of The Birth of Jesus Christ. However, Christmas started to be widely celebrated in Japan since the last few decades! This is mostly because of the Christians in Japan. Several customs which appeared in The Land of the Rising Sun hailed mainly from the United States of America. Some common customs being, sending & receiving of Christmas cards and/or gifts.
Last year Genevieve my wife, and my children Maria & John; expressed their desire to travel East for Christmas. While looking up some countries which are known for their Christmas celebration; Martha (my sister-in-law) calls on us, and Genevieve told her of her desire. Quite surprisingly, Martha said, “why don’t you guys go to Japan for Christmas? It’ll be like you’ve never left Kentucky but yet adding on the beauty of Eastern Christmas Traditions”. That evening we checked out some information on the customs and traditions of celebrating Christmas in Japan. And we were pretty astounded at them. They were such a beautiful blend of the East and The West. So, the next day, I booked our flights online, for 22nd December. So the kids started “dreamin’ of a white Christmas” in Tokyo!
It was soon that DAY for the kids and my wife! Since we had already checked-in online, we left for the airport with ease. The kids were overjoyed and with their mommy, sang Christmas Carols all along the way. On-flight, we flew business class on Japan Airlines and enjoyed the hospitality of the cabin crew. As soon as we were seated, came in the drinks for Genevieve and me, and some ice cream for the Maria and John. After 13 hours of comfortable flight we reached Tokyo International Airport (commonly called Haneda Airport). After having completed all the formalities, we came out and met Mr. Yamamoto, the hotel representative and driver. We had our rooms booked in Haneda Tokyo Royal Park. Soon it was evening and after the long and tiresome, journey we all fell asleep with the hope of a grand holiday in Tokyo the next day.
23rd December: The next day, we woke up early and heard a knock on our door; a voice from the other side said, “Sir! Breakfast has been served!” We went to the hall room where they had arranged for a sumptuous and traditional Japanese breakfast. The entire cuisine consisted of steamed rice, Miso soup, grilled fish along with side-dishes such as tsukemono (Japanese Pickles), nori (dried seaweed) and natto (fermented soybeans). Since it was a li’il too much for John and Maria, they nibbled on some sandwiches and sipped on to Apple Schneider. After the filling breakfast, we left for a bit of site-seeing. We visited the some historical sites like Nijo Palace and some parks like Ryōan-ji.
The day ended with our visit to the Pound Premium to taste its famous Kobe Beef.
24th December, Christmas Eve: The children wanted put up a Christmas tree so, we got one for them. They cheerfully decorated the Christmas tree and also, set up a little crib for “Baby Jesus”. In the evening we visited the Nabana No Sato, because of its famous Illuminations. Then we left for Mass at the St. John the Baptist Church, in Miyazu for the Holy Mass. At 11:30 pm, the lights went off, and the hymns and incense filled the air with the lighting of our vigil candles. The sound of the ding-dongs of the bells rang out proclaiming the birth Of Christ to the beautiful city. What a divine experience it was!
After Mass we came across and made friends with the Sama family. Mr. Ishcro Sama was a kind gentle man along with his wife, Mrs. Ishikawa Sama and their two children, Jonathan and James; were very pleasant to talk to. In their meekness, they invited us to spend a day with them for Christmas. Jenny (Genevieve) was overjoyed and said “whoof! Now I’ll finally have some girl-talks to do with someone. Huff!” John and Maria were happy because they found two new playmates and friends. And I was happy because I too made a friend in this far away land.
Christmas Day: After the morning Mass, we paid our due visit to the Sama’s. Our dear hosts invited us in, and in no time, Mrs. Sama and Jenny went into the kitchen for their long awaited chitchat while the children were playing in the garden. After some tea and breakfast, Mr. Sama proclaimed, “I have some surprise planned. Would you like to go for a short trip with us?” The children surely heard it kept on repeating “daddy! Please! Can we? Can we?” So, Jenny and I gave in. Mrs. Sama had already packed a big picnic basket with loads of goodies for the children.
So we drove 2 hours, and finally reached Kinkaku-ji (The Golden Pavilion). The place was a temple surrounded by natural greenery and a beautiful pond. After spreading out the mat, we sat; had some juice and drinks. Mrs. Sama asked if we would like to sing a karaoke. Jenny eagerly replied, “Oh yes!” So the children and us; we filled the air with some old songs. While the children were busy playing, and the ladies chitchatting; Mr. Ishcro Sama and I were barbequing steaks.
After we had lunch, and I had gathered some information about some places we could visit the next day, and after taking some pictures; we boarded the car and drove back into the city. On the way home, Mrs. Sama said to her husband, “What’s Kurisumasu (Christmas in Japanese) without going to KFC?” We learned that it was fun custom to visit the KFC especially on Christmas Day. After having a Zinger Deluxe Meal, Mr. Sama drove us to our hotel.
A Christmas we’ll forever cherish in our hearts!
Boxing Day: Maria and John patiently were waiting for Santa to get them their goodies. Early in the morning, they shrieked with joy at the gifts they had received. From chocolates to toys, they were overjoyed with the presents. The rest of the day we spent doing nothing. As soon as the sun set, we visited Tokyo Dome City – the Super Light City, Yebisu Garden Place – Baccarat Eternal Lights, Shinjuku Southern Terrace – Shinjuku Southern Lights & Venus Fort – Night Venus to witness the gorgeous lighting.
From 27th to 31st, we mostly visited some markets, Jenny had some shopping to do. On 31st evening we went for dinner at L’Effervescence restaurant where we tried some japans cuisine and wine while the kid has some cold drinks. At midnight, we kissed each other Akemashiteomedetōgozaimasu (Happy New Year). The Next day, we had a morning flight, so we had to wake up early and Mr. Yamamoto drove us to the airport. As the aircraft rose up into the skies like a skylark, we bid farewell to the Land of The Rising Sun. The Christmas we spent in Japan, embracing the country’s way of accepting the Faith, Vibrancy of Tokyo, Love and Gentleness of the Sama Family, the wonderful traditions, and the delicacies of Japan; have all left us with an unforgettable memory. So if you’re travelling to Japan, and need flight information, www.faremachine.com is an awesome help. Bonjour! Meri Kurisumasu!
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