Santas holding a meeting in Amakusa
Well we’ve finally arrived at Amakusa City in Kumamoto Prefecture. You might be wondering how exactly Santa Claus and Amakusa are related, but on September 13, 2015, the 3rd World Santa Claus Congress was held in the city, bringing together Authorized Santa’s from around the world. Following on from our report on their time in Osaka, we joined the Santas once again for an in-depth look at this year’s World Santa Congress.
↑A special present from the jolly Santas! Ho ho ho!
How to save the present:
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Share the present and get into the Christmas spirit!
Hmm… I’m sure I can here that voice from somewhere…
The venue for the 3rd World Santa Claus Congress was Kubo Park, located in the west of Hondomachi in Amakusa City. With stands and tents selling food and all sorts of things lined up throughout the park, the event had an exciting atmosphere that was more like a festival than a meeting. After arriving, we went searching for the Santas but could only find a few people dressed in red. But suddenly out of the blue, we began to hear a faint "Ho ho ho!" coming from somewhere. It looked like the children who were playing in the grass noticed it, too, and ran off in direction of the voices. This is when the Santas appeared!
↑Santas from Japan and Denmark appearing with the sound of bells.
The relaxed pace of the Santas as they enter the venue was truly heartwarming
The Santas take their seats for the opening ceremony.
We were expecting the congress to start, but…
Kundo Koyama, Mayor Itsuki Nakamura and Authorized Santa Claus Paradise Yamamoto said a few words to open the 3rd Global Santa Claus Congress, and soon after, the first event began: the selection of the Japan representatives for the Santa Winter Games. These future Santas would compete in a variety of events for a place in this global tournament held in Sweden. The first event was a fitness test.
Authorized Santa Claus, Paradise Yamamoto, greeted the audience and participants at the event with a warm "Ho Ho Ho!"
The participants receiving an explanation of the fitness test. The chimneys are 2.8m tall!
The Santas walking together to the start line at the top of the hill.
The fitness test has started! The first part of the test is a sleigh ride down the slope.
Once they reach the bottom of the hill, the next step is a dash with a sack of presents! Don't forget to smile!
A big "Ho Ho Ho!" from a Santa on top of the chimney.
The next event is the familiar bread eating contest.
Once they had got their bread, the Santas had to put both feet in a sack and jump to the goal. Woah! Watch out!
For the last event, the Santas had to throw a bag filled with presents into a box...
But there were still more events and exams to come
Next up was a check of their costumes and their pronunciation of "Ho ho ho!" Each would-be Santa took to the stage, explaining to the panel of judges made up of a number of Authorized Santas what made them so suitable to become a Santa Claus.
Even the jolly Santas were serious during the examinations, carefully checking the competitors.
Shouting "Ho Ho Ho!" in a loud voice.
The Santas look a little nervous as they line up waiting for their turn to compete.
After the strict examination by the Authorized Santas, the competitors have to take another physical test. The test in this time is the sack throw.
The men must throw a 5kg sack and the women a 3kg sack.
Another Santa throws a sack of presents.
The final trial: "Santa's Snack Time"
After the physical tests, the costume and "Ho ho ho!" pronunciation check and the sack throw comes the final event, known as "Santa Snack Time." In this challenge, the competitors race to eat the most Bisco, the Authorized sweet of Japan’s Authorized Santa Claus.
Seven Santas racing to eat as many Bisco as possible.
The focused expressions on the faces of the Santas as they take their final trial.
On Christmas Eve, children leave a letter and some sweets by their bedside to thank Santa for bringing their presents. It is Santa’s job to eat these sweets without leaving a crumb and hurry off to the next house, which is why the event is held. One after the other, the Santas finish their sweets, and at long last, an announcement goes out over the loudspeakers announcing the end of the event and thanking the competitor Santas for their hard work. Wow! It really isn’t easy to become a Santa! All the competitors who gave their all in the events were given a great round of applause as they left the venue. After this, the results were to be totaled and the winner of the contest announced. Everyone is eager to find out who won, but for the mean time, well done everyone for all your hard work!
Santa’s Break Time
After the selection of the Japan representatives for the Santa Winter Games, there was a little bit time for a short break. The Santas and competitors spent a relaxing time visiting the shops and enjoying some delicious meals.
Even during the break time the Santas were the center of attention, with people calling them from here and there.
Some people ran up to the Santas to give them high fives.
There were even people who asked the Santas to sign their T-shirts!
The granddaughter of Denmark’s Authorized Santa gave one of the Japanese children a facepaint.
It was about 27 degrees on this day. Even Santas would get tired in this weather!
The authorized Santa sweet Bisco tent was a great success!
Some of the sweet-loving Santas came by the Bisco tent!
During the break time I got to meet Santas from countries all over the world. From the left, these are Santas from Denmark, Germany, Sweden, America and France.
A complete change of atmosphere in the venue
After enjoying visiting the stores, it was finally time for the World Santa Claus Congress to start. The Authorized Santas gathered on the stage, and an announcement was made asking the audience to turn their mobile phones on to manner mode so as not to disturb the discussion. The venue suddenly took on a serious atmosphere like a meeting. During the congress, all sorts of bills related to Christmas were discussed, with the Santas giving a “Ho Ho Ho!” in response to things they agreed with, but staying quiet if they didn’t. Despite them only saying “Ho ho ho,” it was surprisingly easy to understand! All the children and adults gathered at the venue watched intently as the Santas held their meeting.
The Santas as they discussed which of the decorative plates made with Amakusa clay should be selected as the official 2015 year plate.
With a “Ho Ho Ho!”, this plate was chosen as the official year plate.
The decision is made to renew Bisco’s status as the authorized sweet of Santa Claus!
During the congress, the winner of the selection of the Japan representatives for the Santa Winter Games was announced! The winner in this time was competitor number 10! You might not know it, but this Santa was the champion on Japan and the world last year! At the award ceremony, he received his ticket to Sweden, and made a promise to win the world tournament again this year.
The moment the winner was announced. The winner hugged the Authorized Santa out of sheer happiness!
Congratulations on your second win!
Thank you Santa for such a happy time!
The 3rd World Santa Claus Congress in Amakusa was coming to an end. Even though it was September, it was hot like a midsummer day. But thanks to the Santas, with their warm smiles and “Ho ho ho!” despite the heat, and the competitors, who showed us how much they wanted to become Santas, and their desire to simply make people happy, we were able to really enjoy ourselves.
“Thank you, Santa!”
The audience at the venue saw off the Santas and competitors with a huge round of applause, drawing the curtain on the 3rd Global Santa Claus Congress.
The event closed with the traditional mochi throwing, but with the help of the Santas!
The Santas threw the mochi with all their strength so they could reach the people at the back.
The Santas are supposed to be leaving the venue, but can’t quite make it…
Here are some Santas giving their autographs and posing for the camera. They really can’t get away!
Even on their way out of the venue, the kind Santas stopped to give their autographs and take photos. Please don’t ever stop giving hope and dreams to people around the world! Thank you, Santa!
【The wonderful reason why Amakusa City in Kumamoto Prefecture was chosen as the only venue in Asia for the Congress】
The Global Santa Claus Congress was first held in 1957 in the capital of Denmark, Copenhagen, which is the place where the Greenland International Santa Claus Association has its headquarters. Since then, the event has been held every year, and the Santas authorized by the Association gather once a year in Copenhagen, to discuss Christmas related issues, such as the change in the size of modern chimneys and the need to find another method of transport given the reduction in numbers of the reindeer.
This year’s Global Santa Claus Congress in Amakusa is one of these historical meetings, and the only Global Santa Claus Congress to be held in Asia. Amakusa City has celebrated Christmas for over 450 years, even changing the name of the festival to Shimoduki-Matsuri during the period in which Christianity was banned, which makes it an ideal place for Santas to gather and hold the event in Asia.
This year was the third time for the event to be held in Amakusa. This is where the Santas had their heated discussions.