One of my favourite places to go is the local Loft store on Sanjo street. It is a Japanese chain selling accessories, small household goods, stationary, travel goods,… For some reason I have always loved paper – the smell, the texture – and I love to browse the stationary goods at the Loft, which occupies the whole third floor. There are notebooks and files, birthday cards and letter sets, fountain pens and pencils, and all the other little things you never even knew you would need on your desk.
And right now, they have calendars. Lots of calendars.
Well, right now is not really true: Those calendars are occupying about a quarter of the third floor space between mid September of any given year to mid June of the next year, that is nine months – three-quarters of a year!
Japanese people seem to love calendars, and they come in every conceivable colour (from decent black to bright pink or gold), in every conceivable size (from palm-sized cuties to sturdy A4 things), for every conceivable customer (from CEO filofaxes to primary student Mickey Mouse agendas). It really seems that everybody in Japan has to have one of those calendars despite everybody having a smart phone these days.
So, why are they sold for such a long period of time? It wouldn’t take any of us that long to decide on a calendar, would it? The reason is that there are two New Years (well, actually there are three, but the middle one is not celebrated much these days). The first New Year is the one the rest of the world celebrates too: January 1st. It is quite a big thing, with lots of ceremonies, some of them religious (first shrine visit of the year not later than January 3rd), others more mundane (visiting relatives, eating particular food, noting the first time of doing something). I am not entirely sure whether this is a traditional time for gifts as well, beyond the ubiquitous New Year’s cards, but a new calendar for the coming year sounds like a very good idea for it.
The second New Year is much less celebrated, probably even dreaded by not a few people. No, it is not Chinese New Year, traditionally at some day in February. I mean the new fiscal year, which starts on April 1st (no joke). Hence, there are calendars in Japan having April as the first month, and I can see that if you are a business owner, or maybe an accountant for a large company, this could be handy.
As I said, I love paper, and I have been wandering through the almost endless aisles with calendars left and right for many an hour in the beginning of this year. I did not really need one this year, but it would have been nice to have one – preferably in froggy-green – and so I thought I would wait until in a month or two they would go on sale. Interestingly, no such thing happened. The January calendars were simply replaced by the April ones, and I only noticed that the hype was over when they did not take up quite as much space than before.
In the end I decided that I would indeed need a 2014 calendar, but I bought only a very cheap one for a few hundred YEN from the Muji store – another favourite place of mine… But that’s for another post.