Christmas has never stop to mesmerize me - even as it becomes part of the you-must-do kind of event annually. As anticipated, merry makings, goodies, presents, santa claus etc. are the highlights of the day. Minus the part of which I'm no more fit to experience the wonder of Christmas like in the good old days (everybody was once a child), this year's celebration is somewhat different. Better still, I managed to celebrate it in Fukuoka, Japan.
To cut long story short, I attended the Christmas Eve at Itoshima surrounded by melting pot of people. In no time, I found myself to be in a bunch of Americans and Japanese! There at a corner, I stood as I introduced myself to a mid-50 years old man sitting next to me. Though I appreciated his effort in trying to engage in a conversation with me, we both literally speak in body languages. Thanks to his so-so English, my terrible Japanese and the art of body language! They seem to flow gracefully together. Not to forget the nimble mind too.
After countless fingers' flicking, hands moving and face expressions exchanged between us, I allowed my mind to be in harmony with the song "Gloria in Excelsis Deo" that came from the sound of the organ played by the pastor who administered the church. For a moment, I was picturing choirs of angels trotting on clouds with Gabriel leading the way, as the pastor's dainty fingers danced on the keyboard. Such a soothing moment - well at least for someone who is far from home that is.
With the theme 最初のクリスマス (The First Christmas), the service started with a play that went back to some 2010 years ago where the baby Jesus was born in a manger in the small town of Bethlehem. The performance was awesome beyond words to describe and I would say best actor should go to the baby Jesus - simply because he is a baby (a real cute kicking baby!). I believed he took away all the glory that night as the crowd focused their attention to him. Best part is, in the middle of a dialogue, he cried up to the point that required a short break just to get him out of scene. I can't help but to name him as the next Robin Williams as the crowd burst into laughter!
We had coffee and some home-made tidbits after service. I managed to chat with some new faces and luckily this time body languages are off the table. A couple of words exchanged with the pastor's little son named Kento-kun turned out to be amusing as he thought me Japanese phonetically - fresh from a 10 years old! Then, met with Bob and his wife Joan Verme - an American couple which has been living in Japan for the last 40 years as missionary. Will elaborate more about them later.
As I went for a refill of my hot chocolate drink which happened to be irresistible that particular night - I don't know why either - I came across Zack and his brother Jack (both are the sons of one of the church members I regularly attend in Meinohama). We exchanged stories of Christmas. Both kids shared their stuff like an epic. They really enjoy their holidays and how they effortlessly beg for presents from Santa when Christmas is approaching. Both kids may not said it straight but they are all written in their cute little eyes of American and Japanese parentage.
On the way back to hostel, one can vividly witnessed the colorful buildings and streets decorated with lights. Not to mention the 24 hours non-stop recording of famous Christmas songs like "Feliz Navidad" and "We wish you a Merry Christmas" all the way. One who do not know the Japanese culture well, might be made into believing that most of them are Christians. But, they are not. On the other hand, according to the local pastor just now, only 0.99% of the total population of Japan are Christians. Most of them are either Shintos or Buddhists.
Nonetheless, I feel a little bit shocked. Sincerely, I appreciate their acknowledgment of Christmas by putting up lights and Christmas trees around but, I believed to know the real purpose of Christmas in commemorating Jesus's birth as the savior is more important. To do something without knowing the purpose of doing it, is like driving a car to a middle of no where on the interstates! Yup, one may had the fun of it but to what extend? Anyway, I'm not here to pass on criticism whatsoever. Before long, I found myself in front of the university's bus station entrance.
Next day, I had a memorable dinner together with Duane, Brian and the Vermes as we discussed about broad topics of interests. From religion to America, from baseball to Sumo, California and Malaysia etc. A game called "Upwords" concluded the evening as we played. Frankly, it was my first time of playing. The game is just like "Scrabble" - words game but in contrast to scrabble, the alphabets can be on top of each other as long as it carries a meaning. Also, the board is half the size of Scrabble. Duane (the reigning champion) scored the highest points followed closely by Brian in the second place. I only managed to secure third place, a step ahead of Joan. I bet that was a gesture of kindness as an advantage to a newcomer, isn't it? LOL. Truly, it made my day guys! Ah, almost forgot, Dibby! The well-mannered dog belongs to the Vermes.
Till the next posting.