‘Tis the season at SonRise Café. The small upstairs space, located in the Happy Road shopping district in Oyama, Tokyo, is decorated for Christmas.
An artificial pine tree in the corner sparkles with lights, ribbons, and ornaments. A simple nativity scene depicting the Christmas story has been carefully placed on a shelf. And gifts, free for all café customers, are laid out on a table. They can choose from Christmas music CDs, Christmas-themed books, or take one of the Manga Messiah graphic novels depicting the Gospel story.
December is a busy time here at the café with many activities that celebrate the season. Singers perform carols and talk about the true meaning of Christmas during a special themed version of Friday Night Live, the café’s monthly live music event. A group of university students gather for a Christmas party where they watch the Charlie Brown Christmas special. They also try an activity commonly found at American Christmas parties – a white elephant gift exchange where gifts are fought over. But this idea from a different culture doesn’t work so well, due to the polite customs of Japanese people. No one wants to steal gifts from each other. Or, if they do steal, it is to help out friends who don’t like their gifts. Still, the students have a good time and enjoy each other’s company.
Santa Claus makes a big splash out on Happy Road. The Japanese have an affinity for Santa, especially older women who want their picture taken with him. So the café has Santa hand out pamphlets with the Christmas story to people walking by. More than 800 pamphlets are handed out in the first hour, and 500 pamphlets are handed out in the second hour.
SonRise Church has a beautiful Christmas service, with more than 30 café customers in attendance. Everyone stays for lunch, and they have a wonderful time of fellowship. One woman, a regular café customer, is at church for the first time. She starts attending church regularly wanting to learn more about Jesus. With its warm, welcoming atmosphere, SonRise Café hopes to share the true meaning of Christmas with even more people in the years to come.
-Written by Lisa H. Renninger
-Photography by the SonRise Cafe staff