Sunday, January 02, 2011

Christmas in Japan

Ok, so what is Christmas like in Japan?

Well, everyone is definitely AWARE of Christmas here. If you wander into a mall, you might even mistake it for a Western mall - pictures of Santa Claus and snowflakes on shop windows, etc. But culturally, it's definitely different.

Here, New Year's Day seems to be the most important family holiday. On New Year's Eve (my students tell me) mothers are very busy preparing special dishes to be eaten on New Year's Day. Christmas, on the other hand, is not a family holiday, but more like Valentine's Day in the West - a night on which you DON'T want to be without a date! Restaurants are packed, and often offer special 2 person set course meals.

We had to really work at creating a Christmas atmosphere in the apartment, but with the affordable video rentals (100 yen - about $1/week!), and mini Christmas tree, it was a solid success.
Ooh, one lucky boy got a guitar for Christmas!

One lucky girl got the cutest, fuzziest, little pyjama set you've ever seen.

And of course it wouldn't feel like Christmas without a traditional Christmas dinner. We don't have an oven here, but we were fortunately able to find a tasty roast chicken.

Incidentally, in Japan, Colonel Sanders (Yes, THE Colonel of KFC fame) is actually a Christmas icon. It's pretty rare to find turkey in Japan, but apparently with his chicken, white beard, and red logo, The Colonel has become a major part of Christmas in Japan. We fortunately did NOT have to eat KFC for Christmas, but many students have told me that to them… Christmas means KFC.

Wherever you are, I hope y'all had yourself a fingerlickin' good Christmas!

Superman in the Kitchen

One thing we don't find a lot of here is RICH food. So once in awhile we start to get a craving… real cheese, bacon, creamy rich sauces… mmmm….

So when Tara suggested making a macaroni and cheese casserole the other day, I couldn't resist. I have to say it turned out pretty well, if I do say so myself. But that's just the kind of Superman, I am.

My new apron (acquired at a recent Christmas gift exchange) hints at my alter ego.
I was very surprised that such an accurate image of my real body would be printed on an apron here in Japan, but there you have it… Yup, that's pretty well what I look like under the apron. Now you know.

鍋 (nabe)

Another great way to stay warm during the cold winters, nabe is a hot pot set in the centre of the table. Gather your best friends around the table for a night of eating, drinking, and merriment.

Get all the prep work done first - fresh cut vegetables, wontons, cubed tofu, thin strips of meat, and noodles - and you're ready to embark on a fantastic and fulfilling evening.

Here are Matt, Erina, Dave, and Parren, in the pre-nabe phase. Having just come out of the cold, everyone was happy to sit under the kotatsu (see previous post) and stroke this prized Cookie Monster pelt.

The pot is filled a little bit at a time, stretching the dinner into a multi-course meal. In my opinion, it's the ideal way to eat. Everyone taking a small bowl at a time, continuing on for hours.

But the best part is definitely the conversation, and shared time with our friends.