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Saturday, Dec. 15, 2001


Merii Kurisumasu ando guddo naito

Dear Santa,

When you visit our country this year, please be careful not to make any faux pas. Remember, you're a "gaijin," so although you are allowed to break many of the rules in Japan, there are still some customs you should follow.

First of all, no kissing mommy. A polite bow will do. And keep your voice down -- a loud "Ho ho ho" would be very impolite and embarrassing. Keep gestures to a minimum.

When you come inside the house -- through the window, please -- take off your boots and use the XXL slippers we have put out especially for your big gaijin feet. Watch your head as you make your way through our small house.

Give gifts in odd numbers: either one or three. Three is best. Not four, because the word "four" in Japanese, "shi," has the same pronunciation as the word for death, so it could be bad luck to give someone four gifts. Of course, this is just a superstition. We don't really believe it, but then again, we do.

If possible, do your shopping in Japan to help revive the economy. Besides, your Elfen brand electronics aren't very good. Do your elves even know what an MD is? I don't think so, Santa. And your video games are too nonviolent. Leave technology to us.

Take back all Elfen gifts and rewrap them! I was astounded at your gift-wrapping last year. I recommend sending one of your elves here for training in working with paper. The wrapping should be more beautiful than the gift.

By the way, we don't do facial hair in Japan. Do you really need so much facial hair, Santa? If you could just trim that beard a little, we would feel much more comfortable having you sneaking around our house.

I'll leave snacks out for you, but it won't be cookies and milk, like they do in America. We'll leave you a Japanese sweet and green tea. Eat the sweet with the little whittled stick with the bark still on it.

Since you bring us a gift, we'll have to give you one too. You'll need an extra sack and maybe even an extra sled to carry all the gifts back. Sorry, giving gifts back is a Japanese custom. Please resist the temptation to redistribute the gifts we give you.

Don't bring us any food from the North Pole, as it is against the law to bring food into the country. Besides, we have heard that people from the North Pole eat all kinds of strange food such as yeti and abominable snowmen. We don't want to get fat.

Put a little commercial advertising on that sleigh of yours. Universal Studios Japan would be nice. Please clean up after your reindeer. There will be plastic bags and gloves outside for this purpose.

You'll need some Japanese skills in case you run into authorities who stop you for trespassing. I suggest the extremely polite phrase: "Moshiwake arimasen. Watashi wa, Santa desu kedo" ("There is no excuse, I am Santa Claus"). Or, if you should choose to appease them by giving a gift, you should say, "Tsumaranai mono desu ga" ("This is a terrible gift.") If you find yourself being photographed, be sure to smile and give the peace sign. Don't ask me why, but everyone does it.

Take a few moments to stop in a "snack" bar to drink some warm sake and sing karaoke Christmas carols with the hostesses before moving on to Europe and North America.

Finally, every experience should end with a moral. Please leave your opinion about your experience and your impressions of Japan in a letter addressed to us.

You must be very tired, Santa, but please do your best.

Instead of saying "Merry Christmas to all and to all a Good night," say it in Japanese: "Merii Kurisumasu ando guddo naito."

Contact Amy at amychavez@excite.com or visit the "Japan Lite" home page at www.amychavez.com

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