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Saturday, Dec. 10, 2011

JAPAN LITE

How does 'Come all ye Bodhisattvas' grab you?


Many people know that most Japanese believe in Shinto and Buddhism. Fewer are aware that many also participate in "commercialized Christianity" in order to take advantage of those fun Christian holidays.

Christianity, with its sparkly celebrations including over-glitzed trees (Christmas), anthropomorphized rabbits (Easter) and cos-play opportunities (Halloween), is irresistible to the Japanese who like to take part in these holidays on a superficial level. You can hardly blame them for wanting to participate in such an entertaining religion.

And look at our saints — always up for a party! St. Valentine brings us romance and endless supplies of chocolate, St. Patrick offers us copious amounts of beer (all while going green!) and St. Nick (Santa Claus) brings us many more gifts than we could ever really deserve.

C'mon patron saints of Buddhism, let's have some fun! We can commercialize Buddhism — yes we can! Jizo, god of children (and travelers), could certainly do a little more charitable giving — at least to the kiddies. I mean, why wait until the afterlife? Guide our children to commercialism now!

I realize Kannon (Goddess of Mercy) grants us salvation, and that alone should be enough, but in these modern times I think something a little more materialistic would go over really well. The Senju (thousand-armed) Kannon, with all her useful hands, would make even Santa Claus jealous. She wouldn't need all those elves to make toys for her.

If Santa made Kannon the CEO of Christmas Inc., I bet she'd even come up with better quality, edgier products. And who wouldn't prefer products 'Made in the North Pole?' " Having Kannon on board would allow Santa-san, who is really getting on in years, to finally retire.

I realize that hiring the Senju Kannon would take jobs away from the elves, but hey, this is capitalism! And is just the thing to give the Japanese economy a boost.

One Buddhist holiday that could really use an increase in the "fun factor" is Obon, the Festival of the Dead. Hey, how do you think Halloween came into being? We merely turned the morbid holiday into one of fun and games. Japan could do the same by having Fudo Myo-o, with his evil face, sword and flames, out scaring the public during Obon.

Then all they'd need to do is add the No. 1 ingredient sure to make any holiday more fun: candy. After a while, Obon will be so much fun that most Japanese people will forget why they even have the holiday. And it won't matter one bit.

And look at all those animals in the Chinese zodiac — can't we do a little more with them? While most of the zodiac animals prefer to remain in their traditional roles, there is one stellar biped who has stuck his neck out to commercialize a Christian holiday in Japan: the chicken.

Through his publicist KFC, the chicken has risen in popularity to become the official Christmas dinner of Japan. I think it was a good choice because the Japanese don't waste any part of the chicken. They eat the liver (reba), the neck (kubi), the tail (bonjiri), the small intestine (shiro) and even the cartilage. The cartilage is called nankotsu, which sounds more like a train line to me (Welcome to the Nankotsu Line, super express to Kansai Airport").

I am not a big chicken cartilage fan myself, mainly because I know what it is like to have no cartilage left in my knees. It's very painful. And I have these images of hundreds of chickens lined up outside a public welfare coop, waiting in line for knee replacement surgery. All because we ate their cartilage.

Furthermore, it is far too easy for underprivileged chickens to fall prey to illegal Chicken Cartilage Collectors. Imagine roosters standing in front of the public coops: "Cockadoodledoo! A hundred bucks for a set of cartilage on the black market!" All this while singing Christmas carols: "Come all ye faithful . . ."

The Japanese also eat chicken hearts (kokoro), but being that "heart" and "mind" are often the same word in Japanese, how do you know you're not really eating the chicken's mind?

You'd think the rabbit (another animal on the Chinese zodiac) with all his experience with Easter could do something in Japan too. The Easter bunny is solely responsible for bringing chocolate bunnies to the market in the U.S. Oh, Japan doesn't know what it's missing: another holiday based on chocolate.

If Buddhism were more popular in the U.S., we'd surely have chocolatized and candied the entire religion by now: jelly bean juzu beads, The Seven Chocolate Gods of Goodluck, jellied Jizos, gingerbread Buddhas and shortbread Buddha footprints — with toe rings.

And we would have caroled the mantras by now: The Little Taiko Drummer Boy, Little Town of Lumbini, Come all ye Bodhisattvas, We wish you a merry Buddha-mas, and Hark the Herald Kannon Sings.

Hmm, it just doesn't sound right, does it? Maybe Japan is smart to enjoy the commercialism of our holidays rather than commercializing their own.



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