Thursday, October 31, 2013

Cultural Evolution in Japan - Halloween

It's that crazy time of the year again, Halloween!  In my experience as a teacher thus far, I have always put a huge emphasis on holidays, and this year has been no exception.  Halloween is not generally celebrated here in Japan, but is gaining popularity as the years pass and foreigners rise in presence. 

This year for the first time ever, I dressed up for Halloween at one of the kindergartens - as requested by the principal... little did she know!  I pulled my costume together from random scraps around my apartment of things I've collected over the years, and called it a clown costume, which the kids got, so I figure my attempt worked.  It looked like this:

Word got out to the other kindergartens, and I was requested to wear this all week at work, which was awesome.  I felt more like myself than ever, and my coworkers got to see that part of me!  There were a few other interesting things that happened with this costuming escapade.

The most interesting was the complete shock I threw everyone into.  There was a sense of envy from the other teachers, whom grew up not knowing of Halloween, and had never seen a real Halloween costume before.  There was a sense of awe from the students, whom were only learning about Halloween for the very first time, and falling in love with the very idea. There was also a sense of confusion, about "is Halloween coming here a good thing?" from some people around.

Cultural identity is so very important here, so what happens when someone brings something new in full force?  It does throw in a bit of wonder, especially for older generations. "is it good to mix these things?"  I used to be really full force about mixing things, every thing and every one.  I still do think so in a lot of ways.  We can create new and better ideas working together, no doubt about it.

However, as people get older, I get the sense that many people are longing for the past.  That's where this "fear of change" comes from, that we hear so much about.  Obviously I'm speaking pretty hypothetically on this.

I was asked at the kindergarten, "What does one do at a Halloween party?  Do you play games?  We Japanese people really don't have a clue about what goes on at a Halloween party." Which brings me to my next topic:

Halloween party members escorted down the streets of Gifu City

I will try very hard to get a picture of this.  Anyway the event happened about two weeks ago.  Party organizers decided to discuss their Halloween party plans with the local police in Gifu city.  The decision was made that the police would meet the party goers at the station, and do a 20 minute walk to the location, with the members.

Upon first hearing about this, and all the way up until today, I thought this was the most pointless thing I had ever heard.  Why should party goers need police escort?  The event was in the papers before it even happened.  Most of the goers were actually Japanese.  We thought it was silly, and bailed out of the parade.

However, today after hearing my teacher's comments, it struck me:  Japan seriously doesn't understand Halloween.  There are people that of course do, but it's not everyone.  Further more, there could be patriots that are radically against the cultural invasion of Halloween here in Japan.  This is all speculation at this point, but I'm curious if the police escorted the members in order to protect them from any kind of attack.

I'd be interested to learn more about this.

Adventures in Thailand

In the mean time, please enjoy these random pictures from Thailand:
Women playing Go, found in the first place we stayed.  Life felt Fated.

Waterwheel in a park.

Streets of Bangkok, loaded with motorcycles.

A room like this in Thailand will cost you $4.

A room like this will cost you $3. I like it more.

We ran into this Japanese family several times on our adventure.  When I returned to Japan, I actually ran into the father here one more time, playing in a band at a local festival.

Welcome to Cambodia.