Leprechauns, Castles, Good Luck…

Families Features - March 2nd, 2007

S.Z. Cairney

Leprechauns, castles, good luck and laughter. Lullabies, dreams and love ever after… the Irish are fondly known worldwide for their twinkling smiles, mischievous humor and drinking stamina! Start warming up your smile and glass raising arm technique, as this month St. Patrick’s Day will be being celebrated in many major cities around the world—Tokyo one of them!

Hee hee!!! Ho ho, I hear you cry as you rush to the closet, almost knocking yourself out in an attempt to get the door open as quickly as possible. Feverishly chucking clothes, all a myriad of green hues, into a pile on your bedroom floor whilst your kids are doing exactly the same thing but in their bedroom with ALL of their clothes!!

First of all, who was this St. Patrick geezer anyway? And why do thousands of folk, all over the  world celebrate his death? St. Patrick or Maewyn Succat, as he was originally named, has auspicious beginnings. The son of a Roman nobleman, no less. However, this life of aristocracy was cut short by earth shattering events when the poor lad was sixteen. As if most lads his age don’t have enough to contend with… all those hormones and testosterone flying around, pimples, broken hearts plus parents who just don’t get it… his village was attacked, he was captured and sold as a slave.

He was sent to Ireland and forced to work as a shepherd in quite brutal conditions. Whilst this may have sent most folk to drink, drugs or gibbering away to the nearest rock that no doubt dotted the landscape, St. Patrick found comfort in Christianity. He later escaped over to France and studied in a monastery but Ireland was always in his thoughts, calling him back. Haunting him. He returned there until his demise and was a pivotal figure in helping to establish Christianity in Ireland.

Much Irish folklore surrounds St. Patrick. One is the belief that he could raise the dead. A handy friend for new parents to have around after a night of intense sleep deprivation. He was also quite good with snakes (wonder how he was with cockroaches??) as apparently, he managed to rid Ireland of them without any kind of spray or professional extermination crew. But some have said this is a mere metaphor for his efforts to help Christianity replace the pagan religion and culture in Ireland.

You don’t have to be over in the old country to get in on the action over here in Tokyo or in fact anywhere in Japan. The Irish Network in Japan or INJ to you, is a non-profit organization whose main goal is to promote understanding and knowledge of Ireland’s rich culture and incredible heritage. Many events are hosted throughout the year… throughout Japan.

The first St. Patrick’s Day Parade was hosted in Tokyo in 1992 and has become hugely popular with both Irish and non-Irish folk alike!  Mark the Mar. 18 down in your calendar for the huge parade starting at 2pm from Omote-sando, Harajuku. Whether you just watch or fully participate in this spectacular festival, one of the biggest international events, if not the biggest… you will be sure to find yourself caught up in the beauty of the Celtic culture.

As you sip from your glass brimming with Guinness (hope you did those warm up exercises I talked about) tapping your feet along to the merry tunes the bagpipes and fiddles throw into the air, crowds jostling with merriment around you, you might find yourself spirited away by the good people to another place where a castle sits on a craggy hill and you can smell the salt air. Incidentally, another wee snippet from Irish folklore goes that green is the favorite color of the good people—fairies to us laymen. And if you wear too much green, they might steal you away. Just don’t let on to anyone you don’t like!

The INJ website has full info on all the parades and events this year (www.irish-network-japan.com). Parades are being held in Tokyo, Yokohama, Nagoya, Ise Mie, Kyoto and Sendai. Full details are shown plus you can join the network, if you so wish. Also has a full listing of all Irish pubs and restaurants at which you can dine!

Get your family garbed out and make a day of it! Sure to make your St. Patrick’s Day one to remember! Just don’t forget your camera!

And to ensure that the luck of the Irish remains heartily with you during the rest of this year, may I propose a toast to you all.

May your glass be ever full
May the roof over your head always be strong
And may you be in heaven,
Half an hour before the devil knows you’re dead!

Raise your glass to mine and call out Sulainte! (pronounced SLAN-CHA) which means health, and have a rip roaring family St. Patrick’s Day this year wherever you may be!!

Over and out from
Sammy and The Bat Toddlers in Tokyo.