KFC and Christmas cake – Christmas in Japan

by Michelle Liebheit

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„Let’s make a reservation for the best Christmas.“ (KFC Christmas advertisement, 2013). Source: http://www.kfc.co.jp/xmas/?utm_campaign=xmas&utm_source=kfc

It is December and like every year this means that Christmas is coming soon. The city is more crowded than usual, packed with people looking for presents. The shops downtown are playing Jingle Bells endless times, and from everywhere Santa Claus and his reindeers are smiling at you. A giant Christmas tree is displayed in the central station and when it turns night, all the Christmas illuminations come to light.

So which city do you think this is? New York? Berlin? Or is it London?

No – I happen to be in Kyoto, Japan. However, this description could easily suit all major cities around the globe. You might say: This is globalization! But what is this word actually and what influences does it has on Japanese culture? In the following I want to analyze this question with the example of Christmas in Japan.

Christmas is not a national holiday in Japan, although the 23rd of December happens to be one, as for being the present emperor’s birthday. While there is only around one percent Christians living in Japan, Christmas has received great approval. However, since Japanese Christmas does not consist of going to church, listening to the sermon and watch a nativity play before having dinner with your family, Japan has developed some unique elements itself.

Due to a clever marketing campaign dating back in 1974, KFC successfully established its fried chicken as the perfect Christmas dinner in Japan. Nowadays for Japanese people, Christmas equals a bucket of fried chicken from KFC just like New Years is associated with the especially prepared and in boxes presented food called “o-sechi ryôri” (おせち料理). Promoting this idea, even KFC’s figurehead Colonel Sanders, whose lifelike stature stands in front of each Japanese store, will be dressed in a Santa costume around Christmas time. Due to its popularity, people even need do reserve their KFC Christmas dinner at least a month prior to the event. KFC makes twice as much profit in December than in other months.

Another unique Japanese Christmas dish is the Christmas cake (クリスマスケーキ), its most typical type being a sponge cake decorated with whipped cream and strawberries. It is usually picked up by the father of the household. By the 26th prices drop immensely and shops are trying to get rid of their left stocks.

Even though Christmas became a “big hit” in Japan, other Christian holidays like Eastern remain rather unnoticed. Japanese have been picky in choosing what to borrow from foreign countries – apparently most, when it comes to holidays. In class we talked about how some movies are successful around the world, whereas others are not. In this case, action movies seem to be the most “translatable”, since they usually do not have a lot of talking and shooting with guns unfortunately seems to be universally understood. Converting this to our look on foreign holidays in Japan, is it simply a failure of marketing that Eastern has not been as well received as Christmas in Japan, or what are the factors for successfully making a society celebrating a non-native holiday?.

As Millie R. Creighton writes, a holiday successfully promoted by Japanese department stores needs to “accord with Japanese ideology, or serve a particular function in contemporary Japanese society” (1991, p. 683). So even though Christmas came from a different religious background, it still transports a deeper meaning Japanese can relate to: Christmas is all about love and giving. These are values that are universal throughout different societies and Japan is a living proof for this. The holiday has been domesticated and the important male figure is Santa Claus and not Jesus. Of course, this is not a Japanese phenomenon only. On the other hand, Eastern still concentrates more on the historical figure of Jesus and therefore might not seem quite appealing to people with different believes. Other examples of successful holidays in Japan are Mother’s and Father’s Day or Valentine’s Day.

This example shows that globalization is not about making everything the same. Societies adopt particular parts of foreign origin and create a version that suits them best. Through globalization ideas, things and people can easily spread and move from one place to another on earth, but what is being accepted and what is being rejected is still up to society and its values.

References

CREIGHTON, Millie R. “Maintaining Cultural Boundaries: How Japanese Department Stores Domesticate ‘Things Foreign’”. Modern Asian Studies, Vol. 25, No.4, 1991.

HODKINSON, Alan and STRONACH, Ian. “Towards a theory of Santa. Or, the Ghost of Christmas Present“. Anthropology Today, Vol. 27, No. 6, 12/2011.

QUIGLEY, J.T. “A Kentucky Fried Christmas in Japan”. The Diplomat, 12/2013. http://thediplomat.com/2013/12/a-kentucky-fried-christmas-in-japan/

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American Mythology and Racism

One in a series of posters attacking Radical R...

One in a series of posters attacking Radical Republicans on the issue of black suffrage, issued during the Pennsylvania gubernatorial election of 1866. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

by Deanne Walters

Nations are imagined communities, with in an imagined community there are often myths that do not always match up with the reality of what that imagined community is like. The example that will be explored for this blog post is America and race. The myth that America presents is that it is multiethnic society where all races are equal. Yet this is far from true. The history of racism is clear throughout American history and this continues to modern day. Racism has created negative stereotypes of people of color and especially African American people. What do the creations about the imagined community of America show about how America sees itself?

Language, especially slang, can show how Americans think of the races. A kind of covert racism is associating the colors white and black with good and evil. For example, seeing something as black and white is seeing something as all bad or all good. Covert racism can extend to the description of people. Fair when used as complement again reinforces the connection between light skin and beauty. Language can also be used in an obvious form of racism using words like the negro or slant-eyes. This reduces people to a physical characteristic taking away their humanity. They have been used as slurs against enemies, as seen during World War II and the Vietnam War for the slurs against Asians. These words are also used against Americans who have Asia or African ancestry. In that way while America would like to be seen as multiethnic and equal nation, however when we look at its language and slang we can see it still clearly has racism.

What could be a better example of what America stands for than Miss America? For 2014, there was the first Indian-American crowned. There was also a huge backlash on social media saying that she was not “American” enough and instead holding up Miss Kansas (who has blond hair and white skin) as what a true American should be. While this is only one example, this idea runs much deeper in media. When looking at media that is about a group within America, the majority of actors are white. Only 4 percent of Oscars have gone to African Americans and only 14 percent of characters in television and film are African American. If America was a multiethnic and equal community, why is the nation’s diversity not repressed in film? There is still racial bias in American media and that bias extends over all of American society.

The final area is the idea of white as a default person. When talking about other races in America it often said African Americans or Asian Americans, but that contributes to the idea that then when you say American they are white. By thinking that white is the starting point it means that they are the people who get represented most in television and film. This is another bias that shows the racism in American society.

Apart from all these examples the negative stereotypes of people of color are common in the American society and they still affect people of color. The myth that America tries to promote of being multiethnic society and an equal society it is just that, a myth. America does have people from many ethnicities and races, however they are not equal. Racism is still major problem that needs to be addressed.

References:

Goodykoontz, B. (2012, February 24). Despite oscar notice, black actors still hit limits in film. Retrieved from http://usatoday30.usatoday.com/life/movies/movieawards/oscars/story/2012-02-24/race-in-hollywood/53238028/1 

Hafiz, Y. (2013, September 16). Nina davuluri’s miss america 2014 win prompts twitter backlash against indians, muslims. Retrieved from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/09/16/nina-davuluri-miss-america-religion_n_3934428.html 

Moore, R. B. (2006). Racism in the english language. In O’Brien, J. A. (Ed.), The production of reality: Essays and readings on social interaction (pp. 119–126). London, UK: Saga Publications, Ltd.

Richardson, K. (2013, April 25). How can white americans be free?. Retrieved from http://www.salon.com/2013/04/25/how_can_white_americans_be_free/ 

Global cities of the future

by Miranda Solly

First of all, I apologise to any reader who saw the ‘of the future’ in the title and thought I was going to paint a picture of space port cities, or multi-global cities full of aliens. I’d actually like to suggest why global cities become global, and what that says about how future one will grow.

The global cities we were given as examples all seem different on the surface. There are places like London or Tokyo, which are important because they form the biggest financial hubs in the world. Then there is Johannesburg, whose economy stemmed from South Africa’s mining wealth and rose to prominence in the financial sector too. Yet another type of global city is Bangalore, which has risen in status fairly recently due to its ties to global communications and the internet. They all function in similar ways, attracting highly skilled workers from around the world while also acting as a beacon to the poor from the home country and abroad. What important similarity causes people to act in this way? Money. As the proverb goes, “Money makes the world go round”. Money is necessary for most of our everyday needs and in a bigger way for large-scale developments. So money, at the moment at least, does equal power.

What interests me is that Bangalore based its wealth on information technologies, unlike the other cities, whose wealth stemmed more or less recently from industry. This is almost certainly because the digital revolution has changed humans lives as dramatically as the industrial revolution did. The places where such a huge change is navigated effectively will undoubtedly gain money because of that. As we are still discovering what digital technology can do, I am sure that there will be many more global cities like Bangalore. 

So I suggest that global cities are created when their inhabitants successfully manipulate the latest technological advancements (heavy industry, digital technology) to gain power (money). Having attained this power, people are able to forge international ties that strengthen their standing as a global city. This presents two questions: one, can existing global cities keep up with those built on new technologies; and two, what might that next advancement be?

In answer to the first question, I wonder if pre-existing power allows global cities to catch up with new technologies more quickly than other places. After all, New York and Tokyo have not suddenly become obsolete. Possibly new power structures are built with the existing ones as their basis. On the other hand, perhaps negative effects from such a revolution take more time to appear than we have been able to observe. There might be opportunities for those working in up-and-coming global cities related to new technologies that are not offered in more established communities. In London, there is talk of trying to be ‘the next Silicon Valley’, but so far no large internet companies have established themselves there (London cannot compete with the space and human resources that other global cities have). 

In answer to the second question, I think my reader’s guess is as good as mine. But hey, if Virgin Galactic really is the catalyst for a new space age, maybe the next breed of global cities will be on the moon.