Magic tricks and straight answers are all part of being Santa in Japan – at least according to Tokyo’s Santa Claus Academy, which trains St Nicks in a country where Christmas is far more retail than religion.

On a recent weekend, 88 Santa wannabes packed the school in Tokyo’s fashionable Roppongi district for a crash course in how to behave as “Santa-san”, as the man in red is known in Japan.

“Many children… don’t believe in Santa Claus anymore,” said Masaki Azuma, the school’s head. “Let’s bring Santa Claus back.”

Azuma first trains students in the mindset of Santa Claus and teaches them magic tricks, which Azuma recommends as a good ice-breaker for often shy tots.

Then he answers 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, who delivers 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 outfits to stroll streets in the busy Omotesando district, exchanging high fives with shoppers and occasionally stopping to pose for pictures.

Despite nearing 70, Azuma has vowed to press on with his school.

“Even as times change, Santa Claus… needs to live in the hearts of everyone,” he said. – Reuters