Language | MORNING ENGLISH

Let’s discuss Easter in Japan

This week’s featured article

TIM HORNYAK, CONTRIBUTING WRITER

In Western countries, some Christians celebrate Easter with a church visit, a big lunch, and hunting for or noshing on Easter eggs, either the decorated hard-boiled ones or the chocolate variety.

The eggs supposedly recall the tomb from which Jesus was resurrected: an empty shell containing new life. The symbolism is lost in Japan, however, where Christians only account for a very small proportion of the population.

Compared to other imported festivals such as Christmas and Valentine’s Day, Easter in Japan has usually been more of a nonevent. But why? Easter — at least, as it’s celebrated in North America — seems to have all the right stuff for commercial success: sweets, cute bunnies, Easter egg hunts and a strong association with springtime and renewal.

“The word ‘Easter’ itself has become known in Japan, but it’s hard to say that it’s a familiar concept,” says Tomoki Inoue, an analyst in the Social Improvement and Life Design Research Department at NLI Research Institute. “It’s recognized as an event for families with small children and not something that adults can enjoy, which may be a factor in why it has not spread widely. Just because the relevant merchandise is cute doesn’t ensure popularity. Also, Christmas and Valentine’s Day are on specific days, whereas the date of Easter changes every year.”

There are other challenges. Spring is when cherry blossom mania sweeps the country, and most Japanese are keen on partying under the flowers with family, co-workers and friends.

What’s more, this year April 1 is both Easter Sunday and the beginning of the fiscal year, when new hires start their careers and other workers take up new posts, often in other departments or cities. The school year also begins in April.

All that means there’s little time left for a foreign celebration of candy and Christ.

Still, the Easter Bunny is inexorably hopping its way into the hearts of Japan. The Easter market, while small compared to Valentine’s, has nearly doubled in size in three years. It jumped from an estimated ¥18 billion in 2013 to some ¥32 billion in 2017, according to Kiyoshi Kase, representative director of the Japan Anniversary Association.

First published in The Japan Times on April 1.

Warm up

One-minute chat about your favorite thing in spring.

Game

Collect words related to festivals, e.g., party, Christmas, cake.

New words

1) relevant: related to the current subject, e.g., Your point is not relevant to the issue.

2) inexorably: in a way that can’t be changed, e.g., Time marches on inexorably.

Guess the headline

Will Japan ever join the great E_ _ _ _ _ e _ _ hunt?

Questions

1) What do people do for Easter overseas?

2) What are some reasons why Easter is not as popular in Japan as other foreign festivals?

3) What is happening in terms of the Easter market now in Japan?

Let’s discuss the article

1) What do you know about Easter?

2) What is your favorite annual festival?

3) Do you think Easter is becoming more popular in Japan?

Reference

4月から新学期やビジネスの区切りが始まる ことの多い日本にとって春はなにかと行事 ごとの多い時期です。加えて花見シーズンであることもあって、街並みも華やぎます。

すでに賑やかなこの時期、外国から日本に 持ち込まれたイースターイベントはなかなかその認知度をあげることなくひっそりと行われているようです。ハロウィンに続く新しいイベントとして、日本人がイースターを祝うようになるのでしょうか。朝の会に参加し皆さんで話し合ってみましょう。

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