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A Christmas Memory

Every December in the town where I grew up, the town council used to hold its annual Christmas party for the kids. They had nothing to do with the birth of baby Jesus and they were all about cakes, presents and Santa!!

Some adults boycotted the event saying that we were Bhuddists and Christmas had no significance to us. My father was one of those Santa haters and my mother had to have a little "chat" with him before he allowed me to attend the very first of these merry soirees.

I had been brought up by an elderly couple other than my parents up until the time I started elementary school, and ever since I came to live with my parents, my father was doing his best to re-connect with his 2nd son.

One of the things we would do was taking a bath together every night. While soaking in the tub, he would teach me all the military songs he loved (and still does to this day). I learned a few songs and I could sing them by heart. I would brag to my classmates that I knew "grown-up songs"when they were singing along to the popular pop acts of the time.

On the night of the Christmas party, I walked with the neighborhood kids to the cafeteria of a local construction company that the town had rented for the occasion. The place was decorated with silver and gold sparkly garlands all Christmasy-like. We were given some snacks like bags of chips and chocolate bars.

The party kicked off with a loooooong speech by the town leader that was followed by a slide show of the pictures from the camping trip they had taken us on back during the summertime.

Then, there came the time for the open mic! As with any kid-oriented gathering of that time, there were several pairs of girls performing some hits by this singing-dancing duo named Pink Lady that ruled the country in the 70s.
Then there was this kid from my class who did some magic tricks.

Back then, I was a member of the Ashikaga Boys & Girls' Choir and was known to "sing like an angel". I was a boy-soprano.

Sure, I knew the popular Christmas songs they had taught us in school. Silent Night, Rudolph The Red Nosed Reindeer, Santa Claus Is Coming ToTown... but I was all about those military songs my father had taught me. I was going to show these kids how it was done!

So, I made my way out from the kitchen and onto the make-shift stage, sang ナステ。ヒ徂窶堙娯?ーテ (The Song Of The Young Eagle).

It is a song about a division of the Great Japanese Empire Navy which trained an elite group of young men aged 14 to 20 to become fighter pilots. Many of these men, boys really, close to 80% of them according to records, would perish in combats. The song honors these men. Of course, the meaning of the song was totally lost on me. lol

The reaction from the crowd was mixed. The kids couldn't care less while the adults found it amusing and quite funny that this little boy was singing this song.

My mother, who later heard about it from the people who had been at the party, was embarrassed and blamed my father for teaching a child "those songs". My father, on the other hand, was very proud of me.

The party reached its climax after the open mic when Santa made his appearance. The part of Santa was played by a fellow known as ニ単ニ辰窶堋ソ窶堙。窶堙ア(Kei-chan) a glazier who had a shop right behind our house. He handed out gifts from big cardboard boxes to each kid. The gift consisted of a small box containing a piece of strawberry shortcake, and a paper bag with a blank notebook and a couple of pencils in it.

Wow~ Thank you, Kei-chan, I mean, Santa!

The kids population is dwindling these days in our town and they no longer hold these events. No trips, no parties.


What made me think of the Christmas party was a picture I saw on the internet while putting together a sightseeing itenerary for a client of mine from Ireland who will be visiting Ashikaga this summer.

http://www.city.ashikaga.tochigi.jp/002english/tourist/index.html

Click on "Map research for Tourist Information" from the list on the left, choose "West area", then click on the temple on the top of the mountain, OIWA BISHAMONTEN.

The man in the second picture holding the hand of a girl in a red jacket is Kei-chan, our Santa. The girl is his daughter who is sbout 10 years younger than me, so the picture must be quite old. I just saw him the other day in his truck. He is in his 60s now....

Here is a YouTube video of the song I sang.

http://jp.youtube.com/watch?v=sSp_BrnJ7rY&feature=related

Comments

Awww thats so adorable ^^ I'm so glad that you did your father proud! I was in a choir too when I was younger...I was an alto-soprano lol. I dont think my voice is quite "angelic" nowadays though :)

Wow there are a lot of pretty shrines and temples in your city...how far is it from Tokyo? The Ping pong temple made me smile :)
 
Ashikaga is a little over an hour from Asakusa station in Tokyo by train. It is great that you could take the morning train into Tokyo, spend the day there, then be back home for dinner.

The "voice of an angel" left me before I started junior high.
Now I sound like Warren Zevon by day.... and Chet Baker after midnight.
 

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