Friday, December 12, 2008
Shinjuku Southern Lights, 2008-09
Japan doesn't really have the same approach to Christmas as the U.S. does. Largely, it's a romantic time for couples, and an additional excuse to give presents to each other (as if this country needed more excuses for that), but minus most of the religious connotations. New Year's is the bigger event, symbolizing the end of past problems and the beginning of a new stage in your life. New Year's holiday lasts several days, and includes visiting family members, cleaning up the house and office, and giving small presents (money in a white envelop) to young relatives. There's also the sending out of New Year's post cards to everyone you know (I'm told by one office manager that between himself and his wife, it took them the entire weekend to hand write and address 170 cards.)
(Those are penguins around the lights, in case you can't tell. I didn't want to use the flash, since it would have drowned out the other colors.)
Additionally, Tokyo doesn't really get snow until possibly January, so the midwestern concept of a "white Christmas" is also alien here. What does get embraced is the idea of the "walk of lights". There are about 40 listings for such walks around the Tokyo-Yokohama area in the Metropolis magazine. One of which is the Shinjuku Southern Lights.
The name comes from the fact that the lights are located at the Shinjuku Southern Terrace, a shopping area just across the street from the JR Shinjuku train station south exit. It's not a big display, but it's still colorful enough to catch the eye even when surrounded by all of the other flashing advertisements.
(The wishing chapel.)
The centerpiece is the "wishing chapel". A couple stands in the dome and both people each press one of the 4 buttons on the pedestal. The dome then changes colors like a giant mood ring, giving a kind of new year's prediction to the couple (in our case, the lights turned pink, foretelling a "sweet future", which I'm told means that I'll eat lots of sugar and gain weight).