Japan from the inside out

Nippon Noel 2009 (2): Instead of street corner Santas…

Posted by ampontan on Friday, December 18, 2009

IF CHRISTMAS IS FOR KIDS, how do children get in the holiday spirit in Japan, which doesn’t have traditions of dashing through the snow on a one-horse open sleigh, good King Wenceslaus surveying the winter landscape on the Feast of Stephen, or, for bigger kids, having a close encounter under the mistletoe after a couple of cups of eggnog as a prelude to Santa sliding down the chimney? Here are three examples.

The first is a special class for children and their parents in Christmas ikebana, or flower arranging, in Tokushima City. Held in a local community center, it was part of a program sponsored by the Agency for Cultural Affairs. The class attracted 20 primary school students and their parents.

Providing the instruction was a director of a national ikebana association and officers of the local branch association of one of the flower arranging schools. The children used holly, lilies, azalea branches dyed red, and carnations to create flower arrangements with a Christmas theme. Said 11-year-old Hayakawa Yuri: “I was able to do it better than I thought I would. I want to see how it looks in my room.”

Meanwhile, the Susami Aquarium in Susami-cho, Wakayama, which features exhibits of local shrimp and crabs, decided to decorate their main attractions to offer a festive accent to the season. They dressed up two types of crabs as reindeer with Santa, or, to ensure a white Christmas, covered in snow.

One of the varieties given a seasonal makeover was the sponge crab dromidiopsis dormia, which has 15-centimeter-wide shells as an adult. Sea sponges naturally attach themselves to the shell, so the museum employed this trait to stick on sponges reworked to look like Santa dolls. The other was a local variety of spider crab with two-centimeter shells that sometimes disguise themselves with floating debris. The museum has loaded 20 with white thread to represent snow in an exhibit that lasts until the 25th.

Finally, in Rumoi, Hokkaido, municipal workers came up with a clever idea that uses the Chii-chan character. Chii-chan was an idea conceived by city employees to promote local scallop production throughout Hokkaido. Employees drafted 200 of the young scallop shells into holiday service, drew faces on them, and dressed them in red to resemble Santa Claus. The photo here shows them being displayed in a city building.

The Chii-chan/Santa figures are being given as presents to those who contribute to a campaign conducted by the Marine Rescue Japan organization. Some children, anxious for a Santa of their own, have even donated to the campaign.

So who needs visions of sugarplums dancing in your head when you can groove on Yuletide fantasias featuring original ikebana, sponge crabs, and scallop shells instead?

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