Japanese Santa Claus Academy trains wannabe Santa's helpersWednesday 19 December 2012 14.22
Tokyo's Santa Claus Academy has been packed with Santa wannabes who help him find out what children would like for Christmas while he is busy in the North Pole.
On a recent weekend, 88 Santa wannabes packed the school in Tokyo's Roppongi district for a crash course in how to behave as "Santa-san," as the man in red is known in Japan.
The Santa Claus Academy trains Santa's helpers in a country with little Christian tradition and a Christmas that's far more retail than religion.
"There are many children who don't believe in Santa Claus anymore," said Masaki Azuma, head of the school. "So I said to myself, 'Let's bring Santa Claus back.'"
The morning session began with Azuma training students in the mindset of being Santa Claus, such as not to reply to anything unless addressed as "Santa-san,"
Santa's helpers are taught magic tricks, which Mr Azuma recommends as a good ice-breaker for often shy tots.
The rest of the session was devoted to answering the difficult questions that children have a habit of posing, such as "My house doesn't have a chimney and we also have a security system, so how will you be able to come in and deliver my present?"
The academy's answer is that Santa, whose job is to deliver presents no matter what, will find a way.
Also, the home security system should recognise him and let him in.
After this, the students dressed in their Santa's helper outfits stroll streets in the busy Omotesando district, exchanging high fives with shoppers and occasionally stopping to pose for pictures.
Despite nearing 70, Mr Azuma has vowed to press on with his school, believing it has a key role to fulfill.
"Even as times change, Santa Claus is a figure that needs to live in the hearts of everyone," he said.
Santa Claus is too busy preparing toys in the North Pole before Christmas to train his helpers in the academy.
Santa's helpers greet children around the world in shops and other places to find out what they would like for Christmas and let Santa know.