tn_img_0962.jpgSo you think Christmas comes earlier every year in the U.S.? At least retailers there have the decency – if that’s the right word – to wait until the Halloween orgy is out of the way to start beating us over the head with Holiday shtick. Yesterday I walked into a home supplies store in Sabai and what do you think I got? A face full of Merry Christmas, that’s what, complete with Santa Claus, fake trees, and blinking yard reindeer. Yesterday, I should mention, was October 25.

Meanwhile, the word on everybody’s lips in Fukui is about Halloween this weekend. The place is awash in standard décor – fake cobwebs, rubber skeletons, jack-o-lantern cut-outs, black cats, and the rest – and there’s an outbreak of Halloween parties planned Saturday night, all with the obligatory cover charge and costume contest. The kids are all in danger of wetting themselves with excitement over next week’s trick-or-treating revenues.

I arrived in Japan in the middle of a week-long national holiday called Obon, during which everyone returns to their family homes to honor the souls of their ancestors. Obon involves a lot of Buddhist-style ceremonial stuff, and everyone has to spend a bunch of time hanging out in graveyards. And that’s actually a high point on the official Japanese holiday calendar, which includes such other red-letter dates as Respect for the Aged Day, Constitution Day, Culture Day, and Ōmisoka on December 31, when everyone in the country undertakes a vigorous house cleaning in preparation for the new year.

So you can hardly blame the Japanese for adopting a foreign holiday or two, especially if they’re retail-friendly and involve a lot of parties. National Foundation Day is great and all, but I imagine it’s severely underrepresented in the young-girls-dressed-up-as-sexy-nurses department.