Why are there no Asian Santa Clauses?

santa clausI just had an interesting phone conversation with Leo Duran, a producer at KPCC public radio in Los Angeles, about a burning issue the media must address: Why are there no Asian Santa Clauses?

Granted, the image that immediately springs to mind when you say “Santa” is a big fat white man with rosy cheeks, a bushy white beard and a twinkle in his eye, who guffaws “Ho! Ho! Ho!” at the drop of a pointy red hat with a puffy white snowball at the end. But I’ve seen black Santas, and Hispanic Santas. I’ve even seen women in Santa suits sitting in, I suppose as “Mrs. Claus.” I’ve seen Santas with real beards, fake beards, and even dark beards. I’ve seen old and impossibly young Santas. I’ve seen really fat, fake fat and too skinny Santas.

But I’ve never seen an Asian Santa.
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2012 was a good year for Denver’s Japanese and Japanese American community

Campai at Emperor's Birthday Reception in Denver

Kimiko Side, recipient of the Order of the Rising Sun award from the Emperor of Japan, toasts “campai” during the Emperor’s Birthday reception Dec. 3, with Consul General Ikuhiko Ono at the left of the photo and Denver Mayor Michael B. Hancock behind her.

This was a good year for Japanese and Japanese Americans in Colorado. A lot of the credit goes to Ikuhiko Ono, the Consul General who came to Denver late last year, and has made a concerted effort to reach out to the local JA community.

Previous Consul Generals have invited local JA leaders to the official residence for private dinners and to special receptions and events, including an annual reception at a downtown Denver hotel to mark the birthday of Emperor Akihito, celebrated Dec. 23 as a national holiday in Japan on his actual birthday.

The birthday reception is a lively annual reunion for the local Japanese and JA community. We end up seeing a lot of people only at this event, and get to catch up with each other.

But Consul General Ono and his staff do much more than just hold a birthday party every December. During the past year he’s interacted with the community in lots of other ways. Partly, that’s because of the aftermath of the March 11, 2011 earthquake and tsunami that devastated northeast Japan. Ono arrived in Colorado in the wake of a number of fundraising efforts for disaster relief, including events and donation drives by the Japanese community.
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Japanese farmer/restaurateur makes udon noodles the old-fashioned way

Here’s a very nice short video from The Perennial Plate, a blog about sustainable food, that introduces us to Tetsuo Shimizu, a Japanese farmer and restaurateur. He makes his own udon noodles from wheat he grows, and serves it up in Shogotei Restaurant he opened to supplement the meager income he makes as a farmer. It’s an inspiration glimpse of a lifestyle that might not be around much longer….

Here’s another video, “From Japan With Love (and Dashi),” from The Perennial Plate‘s yummy-looking trip to Japan (makes me want to go back!):

From Japan with Love (and Dashi) from The Perennial Plate on Vimeo.

(Thanks to my friend John Lehndorff for the tip!)

Japanese Americans should follow Japan news

Deer at Ise Shrine near Hiroshima, Japan

Over the years, I’ve been surprised that many Japanese Americans aren’t interested in Japan or even visiting Japan, mostly because they’re embarrassed that they don’t speak Japanese, or they feel entirely American.

I think it’s more important than ever for Japanese Americans to follow events in Japan.

The fact is, Japan is on the precipice of some potentially treacherous political turmoil. Most Americans are unaware of Japan’s dysfunctional democracy, which has led to a seven prime ministers in the past decade. The government has been unable to jumpstart a stalled economy, and there are a lot of disgruntled people, not just in the northeast who are still recovering from the earthquake and tsunami of 2011, but throughout the country.

And like the U.S., where the economic downturn has spurred the rise of some ugly, even racist, political and social movements like the one that keeps promoting the anti-Obama “birther” theory, and cloaking it in the veil of patriotism, national pride in Japan is rearing its ugly head.
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“Sakura”: Final event celebrating centenary of Japan’s gift of cherry blossom trees to US

It was the right song for the occasion: Duo Sokyo ended a brief concert marking the 100th anniversary of Japan’s gift of more than 3,000 cherry trees to the United States as a symbol of friendship, with the traditional Japanese folksong that is probably best-known in the west, “Sakura,” or “Cherry Blossom.”

Duo Sokyo, Yoko Hiraoka playing the koto, a traditional harp-like instrument, and David Wheeler playing the shakuhachi, bamboo flute, were part of the celebration held at the Cherry Hills home of Consul General Ikuhiko Ono and his charming, elegant wife Eiko.
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