See all posts in this series via the '12days' tag.
Christmas in Japan begins as soon as Halloween ends.
Shops and cafes all over Japan have been playing Christmas songs since early November. That's... a long time. And a lot of songs.
I'm just lucky it's not the same 5 songs on repeat this year. I worked in a supermarket one Christmas, and we had a sole, scratched compilation CD. Somehow, I made it through 2 weeks of jingle-pop hell without telling a customer where to shove their loyalty card.
With close to 2 months of seasonal joy to maintain, Japan digs deep into the Christmas song archive... and leaves bruises doing it.
Spending a Christmas season in Japan is as much an audial experience as it is visual. You'll hear songs you've never heard of, and songs you were trying really hard to forget.
That faint sound in the background is the barrel being scraped.
I was stopped in my tracks at the convenience store by this nostalgia-fest:
Even for me - about to escape my 20s - that brought back memories. I don't need teeth for Christmas any more, but whitening toothpaste might be quite nice.
I've also had a few surprises. How had I not heard this gem before? I keep hearing this playing in Japanese branches of Starbucks, of all places:
And, uh, this other Japanese website is all about Christmas Island salt. Which is being hastily shovelled by Santa. As if anyone would wear that suit and hat in a tropical climate...
Back to Japan. To Japanese Christmas songs.
Let's start with existing songs that have Japanese lyrics. One of the most popular is 'Kiyoshi Kono Yoru', which you probably know as 'Silent Night'.
'Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer' becomes 'Aka Hana no Tonakai', the nameless red-nosed reindeer crybaby. As performed by J-idols Morning Musume:
There are some original songs to listen out for, too. Like 'Awatenbou no Santa Claus' - the hasty and flustered Santa.
He gets up late, and gets covered in soot falling down chimneys. But if he just dances with mushrooms and smiles, Christmas will always go to plan in the end. ...Reading that back, it sounds sort of wrong.
I'll end with this 20-minute medley of Japanese Christmas songs aimed at kids. It's not that long, but it'll feel like you spent all of December listening to it.