I don't know what it is about Christmas, but even in Japan where I believe only about 1% of the population are Christians, you get the full effect of the holiday season. At least the Santa Claus aspects of it. If you're inclined, you can supply all the spirituality you want. Expect lots of Christmas music in stores, holiday displays, greeting cards for sale, colorful lights and, sometimes, even gigantic aluminum Christmas trees, tall and shiny enough to warm even Lucy Van Pelt's crabby heart.
Hamamatsu is no exception. Sometime in November the Col. Sanders statues at the KFCs suddenly donned Santa costumes and they're all standing proudly in front of their bustling restaurants. Expect long waits for your fried chicken and cole slaw. The city workers strung blue lights in the trees lining the main street in front of Zaza City downtown and transformed it into a fairyland. It's too bad there aren't that many shoppers taking it all in. At the Entetsu department store plaza adjacent to the station there's a lighted globe and dazzling stars suspended from the high ceiling (which didn't exist when last I lived here).
Even in my little neighborhood well north of city center there are houses with blinking lights. Some jolly soul even decorated an apartment balcony by stringing a few colorful strands along the railing. Create Drugstore has Christmas music playing over the sound system, which I have to admit entices me to want to overspend. Only I'm generally there to buy toilet cleaner and Belgian waffles, two items that don't exactly inspire feelings of warmth and joy. Well, maybe the waffles. They make great stocking stuffers, too.
This year, we'll spend Christmas week in Tokyo. We have a fancy hotel room reserved and tickets for various events. It's not a crowded itinerary, but it is a fun one. The last time I was in Tokyo for Christmas I enjoyed strolling solo among the young lovers out on their romantic dates in Shibuya and Harajuku. Even there Christmas music drifted through the cold air and brake lights from all the traffic combined with Christmas illuminations and omnipresent neon signage to dazzle the eyes. I expect more of the same, only this time I'll be one of those romantics. Which will be very pleasant indeed.
So Christmas is all around the world. I suppose I should spend some time decrying the encroaching commercialism of it all, but Japan is not a country that shies from commercialism. We shop til we drop whether it's Christmas or not. I could bemoan the lack of the holiday's true spirit, but I think that's something that resides within. You know its meaning and it's up to you to apply it as needed.