Christmas Season

Christmas in Japan? Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus in Japan (and Eiffel Tower, Statue of Liberty etc). With only a about 1 percent of the Japanese population following the Christian faith, Christmas is still celebrated, though in a uniquely Japanese way.

There is no Japanese word for “Merry Christmas.” People just say it as an English word with Japanese pronunciation: “Merii Kurisumasu” (Click to listen to the pronunciation).

Colonel Santa and Christmas chickenDoraemon SantasChristmas cake

Christmas in Japan is a festival of lights and rich decorations displayed primarily in the cities and depāto (department stores).In almost every shopping mall and cafe Christmas carols can be heard. (Listen to Silent Night in Japanese) Christmas tree and Santa shaped cookies and food displays fill the panya (bakeries) and food courts in the basements of the large depāto. Some families have cultivated traditions like the Christmas chicken dinner (from KFC) and pretty Christmas cakes. Many of the holiday light displays go up in November and until Christmas there is an atmosphere of celebration present. But almost immediately after Christmas day, Christmas disappears. The focus of everyone’s attention turns to Oshōgatsu, the New Year activities. See this post for more about New Years.

Christmas in Japan has been cultivated by corporations to create a “Hallmark Holiday” of sorts. Though more a commercial holiday than a traditional one, it is popular nonetheless. The Christmas atmosphere in the cities can be enchanting. Christmas eve is an important romantic day of celebration for young couples, something like our Valentine’s Day dating expectations.

One of the most impressive seasonal sights are the light displays, a.k.a., illuminations They can be extravagant and dizzyingly elaborate. We hope to soon hare some photos or videos of Japanese illumination displays taken by our students, faculty and friends.

Some of Japan’s best illumination spots
      2015 Sapporo, Osaka, Hiroshima’s Dreamination, Sendai’s Starlight Pageant
               Tokyo Dome, Tsuruoka (Yamagata), and more Illuminations across Japan

Roppongi Hills 2014

Japanese Schools and Ethics Lessons

In Japan respect and the community has been very significant in their culture. The Japanese language is ripe with honorifics that promulgate these respectful relationships. As part of the comparison of Japanese schools with those in the USA here is a video about two schools and the student’s experience in modern Japan.

The video reveals how two Tokyo schools encourage children to feel a sense of obligation to help others.classroom bowing Pupils are asked to work in groups with particular responsibilities, including serving each other lunch and cleaning the school buildings at Suginami Dai Elementary and Koenji Junior High.
The Japanese Ministry of Education wants to encourage children’s individual strengths, yet it’s aware that if there’s too much emphasis on this, young people may no longer feel a strong sense of public duty.

As a result, schools are putting increased emphasis on moral education lessons, with great pressure on teachers to cultivate a sense of morality and citizenship. This school’s role is not just to teach language, but to share culture and learn from each other. Consider how the lessons in Japanese schools can be applied here to our corner of the world. What can we do this week to promote and demonstrate respect and a sense of community?

Soji no Jikan

At Sakura Gakuen more than just the language of Japan is shared. A blend of cultural experiences and lessons is part of our curriculum. This includes more than the Culture Days, cooking, crafts and field trips. Class discussions, projects and skits often focus on culture. As part of the examination of culture, the similarities and differences between Japanese and American schools is a relevant topic for our students. This post is a glimpse of one of the many practices at Japanese schools.

Japanese students sweep, wipe, rake and clean up their school on a daily basis and have fun doing it. soji no jikanThe daily ritual of soji no jikan, cleaning time, is not only a practical way of maintaining the school, it is a subtle lesson that reinforces student’s responsibility, a sense of community, and respect. By everyone cleaning, the task is made easy and fast. Additionally simple life skills are taught as well as the idea that cleaning is not a punishment but just a daily routine. The web is full of videos showing that it can be very entertaining and everyone participates in the soji no jikan, including the sensei.

Check out this fun video that makes you want to clean.

Typically in Japan soji no hikan is performed after lunch. In schools that provide lunch, the students themselves serve the meal, taking the food to classrooms and picking up after the meal. The school clean-up includes not only the classrooms but the school grounds and playing fields as well.Students sweep, wipe, rake and clean up their school on a daily basis and have fun doing it.

More descriptions of Japanese school life are pending

Welcome to Japanese Culture!

Image by Bernadeta Szanto Ozimec

This section of our website will feature a rich variety of all things Japanese. We are calling for submissions, so be creative! You could submit a photo, an essay, a recipe you tried and liked, travel stories, or artwork. It’s up to you.

Maybe you’ve already uploaded a video on “How to fold a paper crane” to YouTube and you’re just waiting for it to go viral.

What better way to share your amazing skills than to submit it to