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Divine Misunderstandings # 1


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Hilarious Passion of the Christ poster in Japan

Here's a crazy ad that appeared in a subway station in Tokyo for Passion of the Christ.

It appears that some advertising company was asked by a Tokyo distributor to do a special ad for Christmas for the Passion of the Christ DVD. Apparently nobody who was actually Christian got to review the ad before it was posted for thousands of people to see on their way home for Christmas Eve.

Not many Christians in Japan, I guess. I once asked a Japanese friend if he knew what Christmas was about. He said it was to commemorate "Julius Christ's birthday." Link (thanks, Mark Hurst!)

Reader comment: Dave Gallardo says: "The whole thing with sects in a foreign land & collision of cultures is pretty interesting. I remember being approached by a Chinese Christian in Xian, (there's some irony there, I suppose), who didn't seem to have very firm grasp of his apparently new-found faith.

Anyway, I thought you might enjoy this story that Brad Warner, author of Hardcore Zen, and a Buddhist teacher who lived in Japan for many years tells about a debate he witnessed between Japanese Hare Krishnas & Japanese Jehovah's witnesses: Link

Reader comment: Tian says: "My sister has been living in japan working for a pharmaceutical firm for over ten years now. She said the Japanese celebrates Christmas by eating KFC chicken. Apparently the resemblance between Colonel Sanders and Santa Klaus has mislead them to believe the Jolly St. Nick would jump down the chimney with buckets of delicious fried chicken.

what the hell, all you white people look alike.

Reader comment: Jenne says: "It looks like the text on the poster says 'Christ was killed; Christmas was born.' Which isn't exactly what they told us in Sunday school, but hey."

Reader comment:Rich pav says: "Yes, the ad looks silly if you don't understand Japanese. It's a juxtaposition of the Japanese interpretation of the meaning of Christmas and its true meaning. A looser translation of the copy would be, "Christ's death gave birth to Chrismas. Learn about the unknown truth here."

The story of Christ is completely unknown in Japan. How else can you market a DVD about it in a country that associates the date commorating the violent and tragic death of a major religious figure with fried chicken, pretty decorations and sex in a love hotel? Imagine someone renting The Passion expecting a typical Christmas movie. Woah.

For what it's worth, I do a podcast/videocast where I try to show what Japan is really like instead of more of the same old, "Look how quirky those funny little Japanese people are."

Reader comment: Brent says: Just thought I'd point out that the reason the Japanese go to KFC during Christmas isn't because Colonel Sanders looks like Santa. While it's true that it's a strange practice, this one falls on the PR Machine. When KFC was first introduced to Japan in 1970, they ran advertisements saying that KFC was what all Americans ate during Christmas. Since the holiday itself was a relatively new concept to the Japanese, KFC was able to make a connection right from the get-go. Years passed pressing the same idea, and now it's tradition. Yes, they DO put Col. Sanders in a Santa Suit come Christmas time, but I'm pretty sure i've seen that stateside too.

Reader comment: Bruce says: Christ was supposedly BORN on Christmas Day, and resurrected on Easter Sunday. All your commentators on this post, and the ad copy writers, appear to think Christmas celebrates Christ's death. What's up with that?

(Of course, the current date of Christmas is definitely not on the actual day the historical Christ was probably born, but who's counting? Also, there's a lot of weird evolution of both celebrations, the dates, etc., but that doesn't change the fact of the modern interpretation.)

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