Japan always gets excited when international luminaries come to visit, and the country’s healthy appetite for entertainment media means that Hollywood movie stars and recording artists from around the world regularly stop in Tokyo for a day or two on their globe-trotting press junkets. Last weekend, however, Japan welcomed an international icon not of screen or song, but of faith, as Pope Francis became the first pope in 38 years to travel to the nation.

The pope’s first stops were Nagasaki, where Christianity gained its first notable foothold in Japan and also where believers endured religious persecution for many years during Japan’s feudal era, and Hiroshima’s Peace Memorial Park. He then made his way to Tokyo for a series of speaking engagements, starting with an event called the Meeting with Young People at the capital’s Cathedral of Holy Mary. At the end of his address, he was presented with a happi half-coat, but the traditional Japanese garment had a very modern motif…

…in the form of an anime-style pope sagely smiling on the back, surrounded by auspicious plum blossoms.

▼ Pope Francis receiving the happi

Though the happi looks a little like the garish outfits idol singer fans wear at concerts to show their unabashed support for their favorite singer, Pope Francis good-naturedly tried it on over his voluminous papal attire. This wasn’t the only example of an idol-like atmosphere surrounding his visit, however. After the Meeting with Young People, the pope next moved to Tokyo Dome, Tokyo’s premiere concert venue, and just like when rock stars or boy bands come to town, there was a long row of merchandise stalls set up in front of the stadium selling official, limited-edition merchandise.

Among the items on offer from the Catholic Bishop’s Conference of Japan were “Pope in Japan” T-shirts (3,300yen [US$30]), windbreakers (7,150 yen), hand towels (990 yen), and tote bags (1,650 yen).

This being Japan, there were also, of course, clear files (550 yen for a set of two), though the lack of pope plushies and crucifix cushions seem like missed opportunities.

Unfortunately, Pope Francis’ busy schedule doesn’t seem to have had room for him to have had time for other unique Japanese Christianity experiences like reading some Pyuri-tan manga, starring the schoolgirl anthropomorphization of Puritan Christianity, or checking out some Christian light novels, but maybe he’ll be able to find time for those should he visit Japan again.

Source: Pope in Japan 2019 official website via Japaaan, Hachima Kiko
Featured image: YouTube/POPE IN JAPAN 2019【公式】
Top image: YouTube/POPE IN JAPAN 2019【公式】
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