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International Resourcing Santa - Hoteiosho - Japan

Only about 1% of Japan's population are Christians, but since WWII many Japanese have begun observing Christmas with all the secular festivities and customs of the American holiday. One reason for this "cultural adoption" was the influence of Amer- ican GIs in Japan. Another was the Japanese toymaking industry, which exposed workers and their families to everything from Christmas ornaments to dolls and games for youngsters at holiday time. The minority Japanese Christians use Christmas as a way to share their beliefs and customs with others. The Japanese equivalent of Santa Claus is "Hoteiosho", one of the gods of the Japanese pantheon. "Hoteiosho" perhaps was selected for this job because he has eyes in the back of his head--the better to check up on youngsters to see who has been "naughty or nice". This kindly gift-giver visits the Japanese home where he may observe families eating turkey in rooms adorned with mistletoe and holly, or singing traditional Christmas carols in Japanese translation. Here we see him as a cheery "two-faced" character, arriving in jewel-toned holiday robes to hand out his gifts including fans, good things to eat, musical instruments and dolls. In Japan, New Years Day, known as Oshogatsu, is the leading holiday. Pine branches and bamboo are used as decorations for the home, and trees are decorated with toys which later become gifts for the youngsters. Businesses close for three days of celebration as Japa- nese families gather together for a New Years festival that greatly resembles Christmas in Europe and America.



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