Life in the Land of the Rising Sun

Saturday, December 12, 2009

A Trend Born of Tragedy

In the past I have spoken of the ongoing competition that seems to be going on between the areas around Kashima Jingu Station in Kashima and the Aso Community Center in Namegata to outdo each other in Christmas light overkill. It's something that started just within the past five years, and it has already grown to the point of sensory overload.

So how did it all begin?

Certainly there have been homes and businesses with Christmas light traditions dating back far longer, but they used to be scattered and isolated. What got the wave started in Namegata, however, seems to have been one large (by Japanese standards), old house located on the main street of what used to be downtown Aso, just up the hill from the Community Center. Both it and the business standing next to it (probably connected) suddenly started sporting very colorful, eye-catching Christmas light displays during the winter season earlier this decade. This decor grew in size and complexity each year. Perhaps inevitably, other businesses in the area decided not to be outdone and thus started putting up their own lights. Then someone got the bright idea to make it a community tradition, and the Namegata Illumination Festival was born. Ironically, however, the house that started the trend didn't do it for such happy reasons.

Apparently the family that lives in the house had a little girl who dearly loved Christmas lights. Back when light displays were still a curiosity in these parts, the girl was really excited whenever her family came across them during one of their outings. Try as she might, however, she could never talk her parents into putting up lights of their own. But then tragedy struck. The little girl died.

Heartbroken as any bereaved parents would be, the little girl's mother and father decided to grant her in death the wish they'd denied her in life. They turned their house into an eye-catching Christmas spectacle they hoped could be seen from Heaven.

Namegata Illumination 4
(Here's a quick cell phone shot of the house. I'll try to post a better one later.)

It goes without saying that the grief-stricken family had no idea they'd wind up starting a trend, but apparently they did. Now not just their house, but the very heart of the former town of Aso is a colorful fantasy of light and color.

Namegata Illumination 1Namegata Illumination 2
(More cell phone suckage, but you get the idea.)

I don't know for certain if Kashima's own Illumination Festival, which started shortly afterward, came about in response or imitation, but I'm sure the little girl would be very happy to see it.

Now that I know the truth behind all this, I guess I won't complain about the cheesy Christmas bling bling overkill. It does have a noble purpose, after all.


  • Those are some pictures of very much lights in trees. I wonder how they did it. I wonder what their power bill might be. How do you find enough outlets?

    By Anonymous Dave, at 2:01 AM  

  • I never tire of Christmas lights. They cheer up the drab winter season.

    Welcome Yule!

    By Blogger Don Snabulus, at 2:44 AM  

  • How sad for the girl's family. Too bad the other light displays aren't for the family's reason as well.

    We've a neighborhood not too far from where I live that have block after block of participating homes. Some are simple lights around the roofline and in a few trees. Some have music and action figures and, one year had Santa out giving candy canes to kids. It's a fun family tradition to tour that neighborhood after Christmas dinner.

    By Anonymous nikkipolani, at 11:06 AM  

  • Dave
    I don't know about the house or the Kashima Jingu Station event, but the lights around the Aso Community Center are all connected to a gas-powered generator and only kept on for a certain number of hours each day.

    I'll try to post some better pics, especially of the lights around Kashima Jingu Station, though they look a lot like the ones I photographed and posted last year.

    I always enjoyed neighborhoods in Oregon that had community Christmas light traditions. They made for a fun drive...if one was careful not to ram the car in front...

    By Blogger The Moody Minstrel, at 1:08 PM  

  • That is a great way to remember a child. We do things every year in memory of our daughter, although they haven't become as grand as this!

    By Blogger Rock Chef, at 8:02 PM  

  • I've always loved Xmas lights..and the different ways (big or little) that people decorate with them. My family used to occasionally go to Peacock Lane (one of the oldest displays in Portland). We have one house near ours we call the "epileptic house" because the decorations always blink on/off in bizarre random patterns...and the lights are....weird (one string of blue, one of red...etc.).

    By Blogger ladybug, at 11:40 PM  

  • What a sad story but a lovely way to remember their daughter. Maybe the neighbours knew the reason behind the lights and decided to join in?

    Yes, lights sure are cheerful esp in cold drab winter. Over here, we get to see different light decorations for the four main festivals - Christmas, Chinese New Year (lights and red lanterns), Muslim New Year (lights and oil lamps around the house) and Deepavali (lights).

    By Blogger HappySurfer, at 12:41 AM  

  • The lights in the trees are wonderful.

    Dave - No electricity needed - these are all fireflies attracted to tee sap.

    By Blogger Pandabonium, at 10:48 AM  

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