Last weekend was St. Patrick’s Day, a holiday that I have always looked forward to but kind of forgot existed once I came to Japan. It wasn’t until a week or so before the holiday that I remembered that it was coming up, as, surprisingly enough, I began to see holiday specials advertised in some restaurants and bars throughout Tokyo. I was more surprised as I should have been, as I should have remembered Japan’s tendency to adopt many aspects of Western culture. I think it’s safe to say that St. Patrick’s Day is a pretty Western holiday. That being said, there was a large parade held in Harajuku, so some friends and I decided to check it out. The street the parade took place on was packed, making it kind of difficult to see the parade. Regardless, I thought the amount of people in attendance was interesting enough on its own.
There were a large amount of foreigners, and an even larger amount of Japanese (which makes sense total once considering the population of Tokyo but a lot of my foreign friends find this surprising). Furthermore, I was probably the only one in the crowd not wearing green. It ended up being a very tiresome day, just as it probably would have been in the West, and I was relieved to return to the smaller town of Machida.
St. Patrick’s Day is a good example of how Japan likes to adopt Western traditions. Before I came to Japan, a lot of people commented on how different they thought the country was going to be compared to America. But I have to say that there are enough similarities that sometimes it takes me a minute to remember that I’m on the opposite side of the world. Many people pick up a lot of recognizable American subcultures and wear a large amount of American brands. There are stores here dedicated to American brands that I’ve yet to see in America, such as Coca-Cola, and different flavors of Western chocolate, such as Kit-Kats. You can find restaurants of many Western cuisines, including American, and eat at many American chain restaurants, such as McDonalds, Burger King, and KFC.
The only difference really is that they refer to French fries as “fried potato” and won’t know what you’re talking about if you say “fries.” Clothing stores also play a lot of American music, from The Beatles to Ke$ha, and a lot of clothing advertises Western cities or landmarks. It’s actually pretty difficult to go anywhere without running into something American, so the celebration of Western holidays is really no different.