The Christmas Feeling Is Missing

It’s Christmas Eve. Christmas Day begins in less than two hours. But unlike my Christmases in Canada, the ones I’ve had in Japan just don’t feel like Christmas. Not in the same way.

Yes, I have family here. We have presents, though mainly for kids. We have a Christmas dinner. There are Christmas parties. There are Christmas decorations, and even some people cover their houses with lights. Christmas music is all over the place. There are some Christmas TV shows. What’s not the same? What’s not Christmas?

Well, in Japan, Christmas is all commercial. It’s not so much about family, it’s more for the children. It’s not a holiday, so people work. The big difference is that the build-up to Christmas just isn’t there. Well, there is a build-up, but in a totally different way. And the strange thing is that the day after Christmas, all decorations are gone. They’re replaced by New Year’s decorations. New Year’s Day is the biggest holiday in Japan, so that’s understandable. It overshadows Christmas in a big way.

There are many differences between a Canadian Christmas and a Japanese Christmas. And these are things I miss a lot.

  • Christmas dinner – Turkey, mashed potatoes, and gravy. In Japan, it’s Kentucky Fried Chicken.
  • Focus on family – In Japan, the focus is on kids.
  • The relaxing feeling – It’s not relaxing in Japan. It’s basically a day like any other day.
  • The Christmas spirit – People get into Christmas in Canada. Not so much in Japan. It’s not very important.
  • The TV shows – I miss the Garfield, Charlie Brown, Rudolph, and Frosty Christmas specials.
  • Sitting around the Christmas tree – Some people do this in Japan, but it isn’t a major thing.

I think the biggest difference is the anticipation. During December, everyone is anxiously waiting for their holiday to start and spend time with their family. This happens here in Japan, but for New Year’s Day. It’s just a different kind of celebration.

Ever spend Christmas in another country or culture?

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Convenient, Yet Inconvenient – Japan’s Train System

We just got back from a trip up to Saitama to visit my wife’s family. During this trip, we had to take a number of buses and trains. The system is extensive in the Tokyo area, and you can get pretty much anywhere you want in a timely manner and without much difficulty.

The view from the JR Musashino Line in Saitama.
The view from the JR Musashino Line in Saitama.

It’s convenient

The trains are quick, many traveling between 90 and 110 kilometres per hour. The express and rapid trains are very nice for long distances. You can easily transfer from one train to another, even if it’s a different company. You can use the same IC card to pay for any train or bus. No need to count out change for a bus or train ticket.

It’s inconvenient

Packing around a not-yet-4-year-old is not the easiest thing, and with her inability to sit for a very long time, she’s difficult to handle on a long train ride. While taking the trains and buses is convenient, it’s troublesome with a young child. On our way home, she fell asleep, and I had to carry her between two trains and have her sleep on me. And then there are the crowded trains. She was extremely fidgety on that train, and wanted to stand, then be held, then stand, then be held, etc. It’s physically demanding to travel by train with a young child. For something like this, I’d have preferred to drive. However, with the roads and traffic in the Tokyo area, that would be a major headache. I don’t think I could find a parking space, either.

For an overnight trip to a destination only one and a half hours away by train, I took a whopping four buses and eight trains. I love the train system in Japan, and could easily travel everywhere, but I wish I could do it with my daughter being a couple years older.

Ever take a trip or commute that frustrated you because of the transportation system? Or having to deal with young children?