When glittering city lights come on to herald the holiday season, I find myself mumbling a poem by Fujio Akimoto that goes, "Wearily slurping wonton soup/ It's Christmas."

It is customary in Japan to celebrate Christmas Eve, rather than Christmas Day. For those who have nobody to share the festivities with, the year-end can be lonely. But the verse laughs off the melancholy with subtle humor, essentially declaring, "Christmas? Turkey? Cake? Forget it."

In the western Tokyo city of Hachioji, a pasta restaurant called Pia Pia posted a notice on its front door that says, "On Dec. 24, we do not serve couples."

The small, 25-seat establishment started doing this three years ago, purely for fun.

The owner, 42-year-old Jun Sakai, explained: "I came up with this idea because seeing happy couples (on Christmas Eve) is too depressing for my staff who are without romantic partners."

Even so, Sakai does not pry into whether or not his patrons are really an item. But the repercussions of his playful no-couples policy have far exceeded his expectations. He has been interviewed not only by Japanese newspapers and television, but also by overseas media from Brazil, the Netherlands, China, South Korea, and elsewhere.

The Telegraph of Britain, a daily newspaper, reported, "Japan is experiencing a couples crisis, with people getting married later in life and having fewer children. If those trends continue, the National Institute of Population and Social Security Research has warned that there will be a mere 49.59 million Japanese by 2100. Nevertheless, commentators on social media sites are largely applauding the restaurant's stand against couples."

One factor that drew the interest of the foreign media seems to be that Christmas in Japan has become established as a day for lovers, having quite deviated from the intended spirit of celebrating the birth of Christ.

"When I was a student myself, I, too, experienced the misery of not having anywhere to go on Christmas Eve," said Sakai.

He has received scores of letters and e-mail messages applauding his policy, with only very few opposing it. Obviously, the holiday season must have been uncomfortable for an unexpectedly large number of people.

A poem by Takashi Ishii goes: "A young man dressed as Santa Claus/ Delivering pizzas in December."

There is definitely no one "right" way to spend Christmas. Any way is just fine--celebrate it with loved ones, deliver pizza or slurp lukewarm wonton soup alone.

--The Asahi Shimbun, Dec. 23

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Vox Populi, Vox Dei is a popular daily column that takes up a wide range of topics, including culture, arts and social trends and developments. Written by veteran Asahi Shimbun writers, the column provides useful perspectives on and insights into contemporary Japan and its culture.