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East meets West

  WHEN EAST MEETS WEST East_meets_west

          Commentary By Hank Miller Jr.

Note: Hank was born and raised in Gloucester City, NJ and now  lives with his family in Japan.


Japaneese_christmas_tree The Japanese have adopted Christmas with great zeal, in the same manner
they have adopted other Western things such as Snoopy and Disney. The
holiday-with glittery trees, sparkly lights and fairy-tale songs-is
irresistible to the Japanese.

This along with the "I want it!" mentality, has made Christmas very
popular.It's equally surprising that the Japanese haven't made Christmas an official season,like spring or fall.  After all,there are seasonal foods,
seasonal plants and decorations. The Christmas season is no longer than
the rainy season, spanning as much as three months in some parts of
Western Japan,such a where I live.

This year, many houses in my area of the island put up outdoor Christmas lights. This is because the Japanese find Christmas lights absolutely after all, pachinko polors Japanese game centers where adults can gamble.They have known the appeal of blinking lights for decades.

On this island, the most popular lights seem to be the kind that flash
in eight patterns.The Christmas season starts in November,when trees all the country are unceremoniously converted to Christianity. Potted evergreens are kidnapped from the garden and dressed with you guessed it ...ornaments,and even wild bamboo may be subjected to a Santa doll shimmying up the stalk.

Although most Japanese boast of having a Christmas tree in their house,
I have noticed definite rules:

No large,untamed trees inside the house!

Although drawings of pine trees are common on"shoji" doors,you really should not let the  brutes inside the house.Thus the Japanese never ave real Christmas trees inside. This is in line with Japan's"no houseplants" rule,which was adopted a long time ago because ikebana is so Territorial.

No competition please, no botanical beauty pageants please.Another reason you shouldn't have a real tree inside at all is that fake is di rigeur in Japan.

To me,this is like the difference between looking at a turkey dinner or
just the picture of a turkey dinner,but in Japan, there's a whole business of making imitation products.

Fake nature sounds,such as plastic cherry blossom, plastic bamboo and
plastic grass.Who would want a real sap-dripping tree emitting a natural pine aroma?
Besides,a real tree might drop its needles!

An indoor Christmas tree should be 30 to 40 cm high and come as a boxed set with all the trimmings, including extra lights on the side,to go.Just take it home,plug it in and wallah!:It's a 1,000-watt Christmas.Your little dynamo tree should have enough presence to double as a disco ball,with Christmas music and fit for a dance party.Preferably the Christmas tree is encased in a plastic display box and is small enough to move from place to place with one hand.Place the tree on top of the refrigerator,or some other out-of-the-way lace.

If you choose to get a slightly bigger tree,40 to 50 cm,and decorate it ourself,as one of my friends has,then you can decorate in the"free style." It seems they used anything as a Christmas tree ornament,even ramen
noodles spray painted various colors etc. Garlands were applied
vertically,and the lights lit up just one portion of the tree.

To apply " icicles" or the silvery Christmas"rain," try this method. First stand a certain distance from the tree. Take a glob of icicles in our hand and roll them in your palms as if you were making mochi rice cakes. After you have made a tight ball of the stuff, adopt a pitcher's
stance and throw! Where ever icicles land on the tree is where they should stay. f your tree lists to one side, no problem. If it looks a little drunk,it's OK.

After all,the Christmas tree is just an imitation of nature.

A Merry Christmas & A Happy New Year from Kitakyushu City ,Japan    Hank & Keiko,The Miller Family