The beautiful thing about Christmas in Japan is that, in a country where Christians account for only 1% of the population and upwards of 70% of Japanese claim no religious affiliation, they’ve dispensed with the sacred and spiritual altogether, distilling the holiday down to a pure, commercial venture.
In this sense, it’s exactly like in the US, but without any of the pretense, which is equal parts refreshing and disturbing. Blind devotion transcends nationality, but Disney must have signed a deal with the devil for the level of allegiance and sincere enthusiasm it garners from most Japanese.
The Mouse is in the house, friends. So Chad and I went and searched him out.
We began at Tokyo Station, following the crowds through the mid-town shopping district to see what amounted to twinkly lights on busy tree-lined streets, though to surprisingly stunning effect.
From there we were herded from one Disney-themed tree to another. Don’t be fooled by photography–most of these were only slightly bigger than you’d see in someone’s house; for us, the real fascination was following the fervor.
Also not captured in these photos: policemen with bullhorns corralling throngs of thousands as snap photos of light displays that are easily trumped by many US front lawns at Christmastime.
From Tokyo Station, we caught the subway over to Tokyo Dome City, where the Christmas “Illumination” continued, but with fewer people.
We explored a light tunnel, and then rode the Thunder Dolphin, a roller coaster with a drop so long (218 ft) that I ceased feeling fear and accepting that this was my new reality–that I would fall into nothingness, forever. We purchased a commemorative photo, in honor of: best coaster faces, ever.
We ended our night at Wins, nearer to the Tokyo Dome, where we bowled 3 rounds and poured illicit (and cheap) whiskey into our vending machine-bought cans of ginger ale. Then Chad ate a burger at a boardwalk-style eatery, just before closing, and we rode the train home, in bed before midnight.
The next morning (Christmas Day), we traded in Japan’s traditional Christmas Cake (strawberry shortcake) for pancakes with fresh fruit and yogurt. And for Christmas dinner, we opted for soy meat with broccoli in place of fried chicken. (The whole Christmas cake and fried chicken phenomenon in Japan is a prime example of the ways in which advertising has directly and intentionally warped and misconstrued the holiday to glorious, frightening all-American effect. They order buckets of KFC in advance, like we would do with Turkeys for Thanksgiving).
Then went and saw Gravity in 3D. All in all, a magical, one-of-a-kind Christmas.
What I’ve Been Doing Instead of Blogging
* * *
1 – I am not a professional videographer, dancer, singer, or ukulele player.
2 – I am not a professional anything, actually.
3 – My grandparents, on the other hand, are obviously old pros.
4 – By contributing to this video, all singing, dancing and otherwise foolish parties implicitly and unwittingly agree to be on the internet. Which is basically just a consequence of being alive these days, so…
5 – I am in no way responsible for destroying the image you had of me vocally, visually, or otherwise by shifting from a photo-and-text blog format to a video format. May you be less traumatized than I was the first time I saw what Ira Glass looked like in real life, as opposed to how I’d pictured him in my head all those years. (Ditto for Garrison Keillor).
Worrying ≠ Thinking
I am no expert. At anything, at all. I try to share what I know, because I have not learned it on my own. I have been boosted up and helped along every step of the way, a living tower of family, friends, and mental health care professionals beneath me, so that I may survey my own inner landscape with some distance. From this vantage point, I can look down and say that it is not all bad.
I can tell you that this, too, will pass. That this awful, binding darkness, is fleeting, not forever. The sun will peek its rays through clouds of self-loathing and dark fear, slowly expanding to shed light and warmth on your oh-so lovable (I promise) body and soul.
Of course, as you’ve pointed out, this sunny intermission will pass, as all things do, and the darkness will come again. Yes, it is true.
But I’ve found, or been gently guided to see, that if you hold to the fleeting nature of feelings, a deeper sense of self will emerge, grown-up strong, like roots from the hard ground. And those emotions will not be yours; they will be like a storm front, passing through.
Then the vicious cycle of ups and downs will seem to have some forward motion, the anger and nothingness no longer blotting out the all light and air, nor even competing. Just shady spots, just clouds, over smooth, still waters.
Your cup is so full, and I know that feeling. Negative, poisonous thoughts and looming to-do lists, frustrations and obligations and days where even happy memories hurt. A brain so tormented, and tormenting, that it’s like being locked in a room with a crazy person hurling the most horrible, personal insults your way, with no end in sight. Of course you’d do anything to get away from that person. I know, because I have been that person, have wanted to kill that part of myself.
I know, because my cup is like your cup, too. All I’m asking you to do, as an experiment, is to empty your cup.
Teaching Myself New Tricks
Lately, I’ve Been…
Reading like I mean it. Devouring books, tearing through at least one each week, on the train, during lunch, before bed, everywhere. It makes the 12+ hours/week spent commuting pass pleasantly, and feels better than dicking around on my phone (though I still indulge in a fair amount of that).
Weaning myself off of sugar and special drinks. Oh, how I’ve bribed myself with the promise of soy hot chocolate on a Monday morning (a happy, sweet start the week), or a Wednesday morning (hump-day treat)…or a Friday morning (reward for a week almost over). But now I am listening to my wonderful little body, giving it what it really needs and wants to thrive. Be not fooled by the photo above–I’ve been resisting! Eating my veggies, and snacking in the savory. Like this:
Eating kimchi or kakuteki before 10 am. I crave the crunch, and the spice, to combat my sweet tooth.
Doodling, drawing, penning and posting (the old fashioned way). I forgot how sweet it is to be simply creative. To make something with my heart and hands, then send it off and say goodbye. It’s a modest endeavor, but it makes me feel “like a child stringing beads in kindergarten–happy, absorbed, and quietly putting one bead on after another.”