As teachers begin to make their way elsewhere for the holidays, there has been much talk in the staff corners (staff rooms are extinct) about the music we’ve been hearing since December 1st (since November 1st in the shopping centres, but now everywhere). The all-but-forgotten Run, Run Rudolph (not Chuck Berry’s best effort) seems to have been resurrected in Japan this year, possibly because it’s part of the spectacular (sic) Christmas show at Tokyo Disneyland, Japanese escapism’s Vatican City. Mariah and Celine and the rest have their wailing, shrieking, completely unappealing versions of perfectly harmless Christmas carols, and Ray Charles, possibly when he was still on drugs, made an embarrassing version of the Little Drummer Boy which Starbucks has exhumed and is subjecting its hapless customers to every morning. Makes me want to get on a plane.
But I’m here over the winter break, so Christmas, that most Japanese of holidays, cannot be escaped. We’ve been subjected to it since October 27th here, especially in the form of music. Now that we’re finally at the point where Christmas tunes and carols would normally be played and sung in Western countries, the discussion around the proverbial water cooler has turned to which songs are appropriate. We know which ones are always inappropriate – Wham’s Last Christmas (…I gave you my heart/But the very next day/You gave it away”), and The Pogues’ Fairy Tale of New York (“Happy Christmas yer arse/ I pray God it’s our last”) – piped from the Kiddies’ Merry-Go-Round of the German Christmas Fair at the Umeda Sky Building – come to mind.
Amanda (my kohai!) mentioned how nice it was to walk down her street that December morning and hear a real traditional carol piped out (Silent Night? O Little Town of Bethlehem? I forget which). Nice to hear something Christian at Christmas, she remarked. Point taken: I really like the traditional tunes, and a chance hearing of The Holly and the Ivy on BBC Radio stopped me in my tracks today. But context is all.
An earthy illustration: last Friday afternoon, while walking from Daikokucho to Namba, I took a shortcut through superswanky Namba Parks and was nearly short-taken (let’s just say that not only did my lunchtime bento not agree with me but it suddenly, emphatically begged to differ). I scooted around, trying to follow the useless ground floor signage, then gave up and ran up the escalator (dodging the inert young Osakans placed randomly on the steps), to finally find a washroom. Sitting there, not a moment too soon, processing my case of Tokugawa’s Revenge, I heard, through the washroom’s excellent speaker system, Bing Crosby singing Adeste Fideles. I couldn’t help but wonder whether Run Run Rudolph might have better suited the mood.
(NB: 07/12/29 – Well, I guess Fairy Tale of New York being declared the No.1 Christmas song of 2007 in Britain – and Last Christmas declared No.3 – makes me an even more out-of-touch old fart than usual. Kind of lets the Japanese off the hook, doesn’t it?)