Tuesday, 2 December 2008

Shaun's Jolly Anti-Christmas Entry!

Economic downturn aside, there's no doubting that capitalism is still the big kid on the block in terms of global influence; it's trounced pretty much every alternative social idea out there; and even manages to have some weight in all those hold out socialist, theocratic or autocratic regimes that constantly give us streams of headlines (which in turn lets the news-media sell advertising space). Some say that capitalism is the globes defacto unifying force. Maybe we don't all understand Shintoism, Islam, Mormonism, Pastafarianism or whatever; but even kids in the worlds muddiest hellholes who have never been to school get what a fistful of Dollars/Euros/Yen means.

Two events have got me thinking about the power that economic forces have over our lives; the first I read in a newspaper, where a crowd of shoppers broke down the doors to a Wal-Mart before opening time and stampeded inside to get to their 'Black Friday' sale a few minutes early, on the way in they trampled an employee to death. People then stepped over the corpse to keep shopping. I guess those people were really keen to get some cheap consumer electronics.

The second was something I perceived personally, the morning of November 1st I woke up in my old stomping grounds of Sasebo; walked with my girlfriend to her workplace and kissed her goodbye, on my way to the local coffee shop (a quadruple mega-espresso always helps with the post-party hangover) I passed one of those trendy 'lifestyle' stores, just in time to see the employees physically removing their Halloween stock and replacing it with Christmas merchandise. Somewhere deep down I suspected we were always living in a state of perpetual holiday-spending, but such a tangible transition made me pause for a moment; don't we even get a weekend off?

Halloween in Sasebo; Mutia/Pippy Longstocks = cute. Shaun/Schoolgirl = quite scary; admittedly, substituting whiteboard marker for eyeliner may have been a mistake.

When I got back to Nogata my local mall was the same; no more black and orange streamers and faux-cobwebs, now it's green and red balloons and faux-snow. Oh and those ultra-obnoxious tinny, piped Christmas songs; the ones that supposedly cause low-level psychosis if you listen to them more than a few hours a day.

It's possible to debate if Christmas is still a religious holiday in principal, but here in Japan it certainly isn't; there isn't a cross or a nativity in sight. You might see a few Angels, but it's pretty likely that they'll be rendered anime-style, which takes the edge off. What we get around here is 'Xmas' in it's purest form; with all the crazed marketing might that the worlds second largest economic power can muster. J-pop starlets in santa hats, special 'Noel' blends of beer, T-shirts with unintelligible seasonal slogans ("Ho Ho to your reindeer in sled-heart" I saw the other day). The first 'holiday themed' porn mag came out in the local convenience store a few days back too. *sigh*

I got an e-mail question asking 'Are Japanese teachers really tidy?' I present this image as exhibit A in the case for the negative.

Japan is renowned for being ahead of the curve in terms of business enterprise; I wonder if 'Christmas in Japan' is the future of the commercial world as a whole; saturation holiday marketing where cultural relevance and understanding take a back seat to incessant marketing and constructed spending compulsions around the entire calendar; I should probably be bracing for the Valentines day blitz early.

Anyway; happy holidays world, just remember not to crush anyone underfoot on your way into the giant mall we all live in.