Friday, March 22, 2013

Variety Friday: Japanese Easter

Images from Fujiya's web site except where noted

I think many Japanese people have an inkling about the roots of Christmas. Though they don't really think much about it, I believe many know it's related to Christian beliefs and may even have been taught in high school that it relates to celebrating the birth of Jesus. Some of my students told me that they were given the basic details some time back when they were kids, but I doubt anyone ever gave them the inside scoop on Easter.

"Colorful Egg Tart". It's not an egg tart, but a tart with a couple of confectionary eggs. 

The concept of Easter is based on a bit more mysticism than Christmas. It's all well and good to talk about babies being born. It's another to speak of the brutality of being crucified and being resurrected. It's not exactly the stuff of the "happy fun life" that you see in Japan. They've got their own mysticism and beliefs already. They don't need more.

A bunny cake with strawberry ears, obviously.

That being said, they can always use more commercial opportunities. Christmas has been folded in so nicely that they have their own traditions for it. Halloween has been gaining a foothold over the past couple of decades and they are closing in on having their own ways of celebrating it. I'm guessing that it ultimately will end up as a situation where children get treats from participating businesses. That's what was happening in my neighborhood when I left Japan. 

Peko "sweet egg" with some pretty pedestrian treats (hard candy, lollipops, chocolate). 

Easter is a whole, fresh, wide world of opportunity, and it's quite a doozy. The pastel colors, the happy Easter bunny, cute chicks, and sweets of all sorts. There's not much to dislike about Easter, except for that pesky serious stuff that actually underlies the whole deal, but that can be swept under the rug. It's not like much of the West isn't doing that as well.

Mont blanc, which is cake with a cream filling and chestnut cream on top.

As someone who has been paying attention to food and food marketing in Japan for quite awhile, and who has seen a lot of change over the 23 years I spent in Japan, it's interesting to take note of which companies are latching onto the potential of Easter and which ones are ignoring it. Chocolate makers like Meiji and Morinaga don't appear to be doing much at all to capitalize on the holiday. Confectioners and those who sell freshly made sweets are embracing it. 

Easter Variety Box, ice cream on the half "shell"

Besides Fujiya, Baskin Robbins Japan has been selling special Easter ice cream products for the last several years. In 2012, they were selling plastic eggs full of ice cream. In addition to bringing those back, they're also selling the "sundaes" pictured below and a fruit drink which has little to do with Easter, but is a seasonal offering nonetheless. 

Image from Baskin Robbins Japan

I wonder if Easter may not have caught on in Japan because it coincides with spring celebrations. It's not like the Japanese don't have plenty of good times on their own with the changing of the season with cherry blossom viewing and all. They even have their own flavors and foods associated with the season. Frankly, some part of me is a little sad to see the crassness of the holiday make its way into Japan. I'm in no way a cultural purist, but I do know that, despite all of the designer bags and conspicuous consumption there, it's not nearly as consumerist as it could potentially be when it comes to holidays. These sort of imported holidays seem like heading down a path toward a much higher level of such types of celebrations, and I don't really see that as a good thing. 


BradleyNASH said...

So is Easter big for Japanese people because of religion? Or rather a changing of seasons?

Orchid64 said...

It's big because it's got commercial potential and cuteness. They don't know about the religious aspects and they don't link it to the changing of the seasons. :-)