Yesterday as I stood outside a small department store in Matsubara while waiting for my bus, I heard a Johnny Mathis Christmas song piped over loudspeakers. At first I was stunned. To begin with, he was singing one of the religious Christmas carols, I already forget which one it was, but honestly hearing any religious Christmas music strikes me as funny here in Japan where Christians appear to be easily outnumbered by those practicing Buddhism or Shintoism. Then I became almost hysterical as I heard Rosemary Clooney singing another Christmas tune. It was as though someone had unearthed an album of "classic American Christmas melodies" and started playing it because, "Hey, it's Christmas!" Now I'm no expert but I suspect that the appropriation of other cultures and especially the "fun" aspects of other cultures is fairly widespread. Take for example all the folks in the U.S. who think it's "cool" to get a Japanese or Chinese symbol tattooed on their body with little idea of what it might really mean or how to read it or pronounce it. Still, these instances make me shake my head and wonder just how it all came to be.
And personally, hearing that classic American stand-by took me back to my childhood days, made me smile and had me humming all the way home.