Before I came to Japan, I wondered what Christmas would be like. It is not a Christian country and New Year is a much more important festival in the Japanese calendar. So I wasn’t expecting to see many Christmas trees. I couldn’t have been more wrong. The shopping centres and public areas around Tokyo have their decorations up even earlier than many do in the UK and – kids being kids – everyone is excited about Santa’s arrival, presents and cake. In school we play games, make Christmas decorations and sing songs, much the same as you do. In one class, a student got the words to ‘Jingle Bells’ slightly muddled and all his classmates jumped in to tell him the right ones. You’ve got to get it right for Santa!
Despite – or perhaps because of – everything they have been through, the small people of Ishinomaki are no strangers to the Christmas anticipation. I could imagine kids in temporary housing asking their mums if Santa would be able to find them, just as my brother and I did after our family moved house late one year. The charity Free Tohoku was determined to give them a reason to smile this Christmas and so ‘let them eat cake!’ was born. The idea was to give each family some treats – Christmas cake and cookies – as well as shopping tokens for other things they needed. Thanks to the generosity of so many, fundraising efforts were a great success.
To read more of this post, please download a copy of The Teas That Bind, the story of my experiences in Japan after the Great East Japan Earthquake of 2011, available now from Amazon and Lulu.