Happy Holidays from Cascadian Abroad!
Image

Christmas 2015: When in Japan

Our first Christmas in Japan was all about observing the new traditions in the world around us. For our second Christmas here, we simply embraced it all in our own way.

Early December marks the beginning of illumination season. In the U.S., it’s common to decorate homes and even entire neighborhoods with sometimes elaborate lighting displays. In Japan, individual homes don’t really get into the act. Instead, shopping centers, parks, train stations and more light the winter skies with massive shows of moving lights and music. And while the Christmas displays in stores disappear the morning of December 25, the illumination shows stretch well into the new year.

Click any photo in the gallery to see a larger version and start a slideshow view

This year, we visited Caretta Shiodome, widely considered to host the best illumination show in Tokyo. The theme for this year’s display, Canyon d’Azur, is reflected in the cold, blue lights that rise above the short path winding amongst them. Disney songs are the soundtrack for the light show, which plays every 20 minutes.

During one of the intermissions, a couple and their entire wedding party posed for photos in front of one of the lighted tree sculptures while Father Christmas officiated nearby.

Holiday/birthday fun at Lindsay's place with Cassie, Owen and Vanessa

Holiday/birthday fun at Lindsay’s place with Cassie, Owen and Vanessa

A few days later, we kicked off party season at our next door neighbor’s place with several of the crew from TIU. It was a combination birthday/Christmas party, which made for some wacky decorations and outfits.

Santa Claus stopped by Kawagoe City Hall to give Tokimo, our city's sweet potato mascot, an early Christmas gift

Santa Claus stopped by Kawagoe City Hall to give Tokimo, our city’s sweet potato mascot, an early Christmas gift

A couple days before Christmas, our monthly city newsletter arrived in the mail. The photo on the cover qualified as an instant classic, featuring Kawagoe’s sweet potato-shaped mascot Tokimo posing with Santa Claus at the City Hall. More importantly, it was photographic evidence that Santa was in Japan!

One of Santa's elves arrived dressed as a Kuroneko delivery driver to bring a selection of holiday-themed beers from around the world

One of Santa’s elves arrived dressed as a Kuroneko delivery driver to bring a selection of holiday-themed beers from around the world

On Christmas Eve day, a selection of holiday-themed craft beers from around the world arrived at our doorstep. I had no idea our Kuroneko delivery driver worked for Santa! It was possibly the largest collection of hops in a single location in the entire city that day.

Click any photo in the gallery to see a larger version and start a slideshow view

On the evening of Christmas Eve, we met up with some of last year’s students for dinner at the sushi place near our house. Three of them studied in America last year, so it was cool to see how their perspectives changed. I was also reminded of how much food college students can pack away in a single sitting. Those days have long since passed for me…

Click any photo in the gallery to see a larger version and start a slideshow view

On Christmas morning, Santa slipped in a little gift for Viktoria in the form of Japanese two-toed socks called tabi. Unfortunately, there was no time to enjoy them as Christmas day in Japan is more commonly known as “Friday,” which also happened to be a work day this year.

Click any photo in the gallery to see a larger version and start a slideshow view

That evening, we recreated the “traditional” Japanese Christmas dinner with a vegetarian spin on KFC’s fried chicken meal, featuring southern-fried tofu and buttermilk biscuits. After scouring the internet for other Christmas recipes, I also came up with potato salad shaped like a Christmas tree, trimmed with carrot stars and cucumber peel garland. And Christmas cakes. So. Many. Mini. Cakes.

Click any photo in the gallery to see a larger version and start a slideshow view

Thanks to the global delays in shipping, goodies continued to show up at our door in the days following Christmas. Our old friends Frank, Justin Cheryl and Whitman came tucked into a box from my mom in the form of hot sauce, peanut butter cups, cookies and chocolate respectively. A card from my dad featuring Santa head over teakettle in the chimney contained a very generous gift card.

A bar of Apricot Wheat beer soap from my brother arrived the day after Christmas. I literally had the camera in hand, taking a picture of it for this post, when the doorbell rang. Santa’s Japan Post affiliate delivered two companion pieces made from Sierra Nevada and Samuel Adams beers. A note in an e-mail read: “Combining local beers so you feel at home, but soap so you both can lather and always smell like a Portlander.”

Click any photo in the gallery to see a larger version and start a slideshow view

We wrapped up the Christmas season with a trip into central Tokyo’s Marunouchi district for the last night of illuminations at the restored Tokyo Station Marunouchi Building. In 2012, an impressive 4D projection-mapping display caused major traffic headaches due to the massive crowds, so subsequent displays have been more toned down.

Yet, large crowds still poured out of Tokyo Station. We were ushered like cattle from the station to the viewing area between cloth barriers held by event staff. We snapped some photos, then walked down Marunouchi’s Naka Dori shopping street through the remains of the event’s Christmas Market.

Christmas 2015 is now officially in the books and the New Year is right around the corner. Hope you all had a wonderful holiday season and best wishes for 2016!

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s