Look up “bittersweet” in the dictionary and you might just see the Merry Christmask train.

Every Christmas season Yokkaichi City, on the outskirts of Nagoya but in Mie Prefecture, holds the annual Santa Train. This is where students from Yokkaichi University dress up like Santa Claus and hand out snacks and balloons to lucky children on board.

▼ As we can see in this news report from 2018, even yuru-kyara mascots come out for the Santa Train

However, like most fun things, this too was cancelled for fears of rising COVID-19 infections across Japan. It’s perfectly understandable as the last thing anyone wants to get from jolly old St. Nick is a vicious lung infection.

That doesn’t mean the organizers at Sangi Railway have given up altogether though. They still plan to convert one of their seven trains that run along the Hokusei Line into the Christmas Train.

Unlike the Santa Train which is a limited time event, the Christmas Train can be seen running for about a month between Kuwana and Inabe Cities with its livery all decked out in festive themes and “Merry Christmas” printed along the side.

▼ The Christmas Train in 2017

This year too, the Christmas Train is rolling as we speak until 27 December, but with some significant changes. Santa and his reindeer that usually grace the cars will now don face masks. As of yet, there is no evidence that reindeer can either spread or contract COVID-19, but better safe than sorry.

Also, the “Merry Christmas” greeting printed on the side has been amended to read “Merry Christmask” in an effort to remind riders to keep each other safe by covering up their Christmas-pie holes.

Overall, it’s still pretty depressing, and I can’t help but think a hundred years from now images of the Merry Christmask train will be used in documentaries to show my great grandson Tanjiro how crappy this period has been.

On the other hand, I think the silver lining we can take from all this is that Japan seems to be getting better at English in marketing. You have to admit, that’s a pretty solid pun, and this year also saw some pretty slick company names like Telexistence emerge. Even a large chunk of the Japanese population jumped down our new PM’s throat for making a perfectly passable English tweet that didn’t meet their standards.

There’s still a ways to go, but things have gotten way better than they used to be all things considered.

Source: Sangi Railway, Mainichi Shimbun
Images: Sangi Railway
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