Twas the day before Christmas — in Japan

It's Saturday, a bright, clear, cold day in Yokohama. At The Word Works, we are clearing our inboxes of left-over bits of business. Down at the station the halls in the underground malls are filled with booths selling Christmas cakes, white or chocolate layer cakes decorated with strawberries. KFC has specials on buckets of fried chicken. Couples are planning romantic evenings. Christians, a tiny minority here, will be headed to churches for services this evening.

The service at the Akasaka Japanese Christian Church will be followed by an annual concert by the Roppongi Men's Chorus Club, pay-back for our use of the church as a place to rehearse on Wednesday evenings the rest of the year. The program is peculiar, the Japanese version of "Joy to the World" is followed by O Tannenbaum sung in German, and Ave Maria (odd because this is a Protestant church), two songs by Mendelsohn with no particular religious content, Amazing Grace and Let All Men Sing. Hard to imagine a better musical demonstration of Japanese culture's ability to domesticate imported material while ignoring original implications. No big deal, really. A problem only for cultural chauvinists who believe they have a monopoly on "our culture" and get bent out of shape by what they see as ignorance or distortion.

That's life in the global yet still very local place called Japan.

Happy Holidays to All and a Happy, Prosperous, and Productive Year to Anthropologists Everywhere!

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