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A day with the Authorized Santa Claus

In September 2015, the North Wing of Haneda Airport was filled with the merry call of “Ho Ho Ho~!” as Santas from all over the world, with flags from northern Europe and other countries around the world, passed through the airport lobby, greeting surprised people in their deep but kind voices.

Why did so many Santas gather from all the world in Japan? We spent a day with them to find out.

↑“Ho Ho Ho~! Hello everyone!”

What do you mean by "Authorized" Santa Claus

The Santas in this report are not just people who enjoy dressing up as Santa Claus - they are all authorized Santas recognized by the Greenland International Santa Claus Association, which has its headquarters in Copenhagen, the capital of Denmark. In order to become an authorized Santa Claus, they have to pass a difficult examination, and to qualify for that examination, they need to submit a resume of their experience as a Santa Claus, be over 120kg (including their costume, etc.), and be married with children. This time, 20 authorized Santas from Denmark, Sweden, Norway, America, Canada, Germany, France and Japan gathered with their families in Japan.

↑Santas from Germany and Denmark. The Santa Claus in the middle is a “Black Santa (Knecht Ruprecht)” who punishes bad children.

↑The eldest Santa was from Canada. He completely matches the image of Santa that I have had since I was a child.

↑I had the incredibly rare chance to exchange business cards with Japan’s authorized Santa!

What are all these Santas doing at the airport?

After arriving at the airport, the Santas were warmly welcomed by the airport crew. Surprised shouts of, “Wow! It’s Santa!” could be heard from the children, surprised at their luck at being to see the rare site of Santa in September, and in no time at all, a crowd had gathered with people lining up to take photographs with the Santas. The Santas responded with a jolly “Ho Ho Ho~!” a phrase understood by children all over the world. After the photos had even taken, these Santas gave the children postcards and souvenirs from their home towns. They were even kind enough to make a circle and perform a Santa dance in the event space in the lobby.

↑The airport lobby. The unusual site of Santa in September, let alone this many, left quite an impact on people at the airport.

↑The Santas performing the Santa Dance in the event space in the lobby.

Now on to their sleighs to their next destination?

The Santas had a important mission in Osaka. Being Santas, I assumed that they would take to their sleighs and ride through the night sky, but I was proved wrong, and they made their way to the boarding gate. It is September after all. I guess they can only do that in December. For authorized Santas, there are various rules that they must follow, and one of these rules is to always wear their Santa costume wherever they go. So through the baggage check, the boarding and throughout the whole flight, they were dressed as Santa Claus. As you can imagine, people at the airport were very surprised at this strange sight, and the other passengers on the flight could enjoy the festive season a little earlier this year.

↑Despite the heat, the Santas stayed in their hot costumes and stayed cheerful throughout the flight.

The Santas arrive in Osaka!

The Santas arrived at Itami Airport in Osaka. After collecting their luggage, they left the arrival lobby, greeting people with a warm “Ho Ho Ho~!” as they went. The other passengers at the airport couldn’t hide their surprise at the sight, with some people quickly pulling out their cameras to take photos and some coming over to hug the Santas. What struck me the most was that adults were maybe even more excited about seeing the Santas than the children! Santa really is an idol for everyone!

After the flight, the Santas next boarded a bus, but what was their destination?

↑The Santas were the center of attention as they walked through Itami Airport.

↑A “Hello!” from a Santa on an escalator.

↑The families of the Santas also came with them.

Santas in hot Dotonbori! A rare sight!

After a short journey, the Santas arrived at their destination: the famous Osaka tourist spot, Dotonbori. The Santas get off the bus, and began walking the bustling streets of the Midosuji area. At first, we were a little worried that we might lose sight of them in the crowds, but as you can imagine, with a sense of presence like Santas, it was easy to find them. The Santas soon arrived at their next destination, the Dotonbori Glico Sign! This was the first time for many of the Santas to visit Osaka, so they cheerfully took commemorative photos holding the authorized Santa Claus sweet*, Bisco.

After this, the Santas returned to their bus, but as you can imagine, a sight like this with 20 Santas is not something you can see often even at Christmas, so a number of impromptu photo sessions were held as they made their way back to the bus.

* Paradise Yamamoto, Japan’s only authorized Santa Claus, brought Bisco to a global Santa Claus meeting as a souvenir from Japan, and many of the other participating Santas were very happy to receive it. In Europe and America, there is a tradition where children leave out a biscuit and a glass of milk along with a letter of thanks for Santa on Christmas Eve, and from this tradition, Bisco was chosen by the Greenland International Santa Claus Association as the authorized Japanese sweet of Santa Claus.

Bisco is only sold in Japan.

↑A Santa taking a photo of the streets of Osaka from the bus.

↑Safety first! The Santas also helped with traffic safety!

↑The surprising sight of the Santas walking through Midosuji.

↑The Santas and their families making the Glico man “goal-in” pose holding Bisco.

↑A passerby giving a hug to one of the Santas. Today is going to be a great day!

Santa and Bisco - a chance meeting

After leaving Dotonbori, the next destination for the Santas was the Glico Museum. You could see the excitement in their faces as they looked at the rows of Glico toys on display. Some Santas also took photos of each other doing the “goal-in” Glico man pose. After touring the museum, the Santas were taken to a usually off-limits area of the museum where they were shown the original images of the first Bisco boy and learned a little bit about the history of Bisco. Here, we discovered that the eldest Santa on the tour, a Santa from Canada, was born in 1933, the same year as Bisco. The smiling Bisco boy in the photo and this kind 83 year old Santa Claus had grown up at the same time. And on this moving note of chance and fate, their day in Osaka drew to a close.

Thank you Santa for all the fun and surprises!

↑The first Bisco boy and the 83 year old Santa from Canada. It’s hard to believe that they are now the same age!

↑A Santa enjoying looking at the Glico toys.

↑“Say cheese!” An apprentice authorized Santa from Hong Kong has his photo taken.

↑A commemorative photo taken at the Glico Museum with the first Glico Boy.

After the tour, the Santas then left for Kyushu to take part in the Third Global Santa Claus Meeting held in Amakusa City in Kumamoto Prefecture. Find out more about their trip to Kyushu in the next report!

↑Even on the coach, the Santas were the focus of everyone’s attention! Ho Ho Ho~! See you next time!

An early Christmas present from the authorized Santa!

An animation from Paradise Yamamoto, Japan’s authorized Santa Claus, of his magical bag, filled with Bisco!

- PC users: Drag and drop the animation onto the desktop
- Smartphone users: Long tap on the animation and save
- Select the animation saved from Twitter and post it

Why not share the present with your friends and family?