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Sunday, December 9

Early Christmas Outings in Japan

Here I sit, post surgery, post recovery and just about as antsy as one would expect after all that sitting. Since Friday, it has been go-go-go around here. The first thing I wanted to do was to get out and enjoy “Christmas” in Japan. Statistically, it is something like 1% of the Japanese are Christian, which means that Christmas celebrations aren’t quite what they are back in the U.S.

First, it isn’t a national holiday. People do the work as usual thing. Christmas being on a Tuesday this year… well, it just seems strange to be celebrating with the eating, drinking and spreading the merry when everyone else is so hard at work. While it may not be a religious celebration here… it is a celebration nonetheless as it has been turned into a commercial spectacle. Christmas lights have been hanging on houses and in stores since Halloween. The Japanese are very appreciative of their seasons, so while they don’t step on falls toes, they do tend to yank that crap down and replace it with a gore of lights even before the commercial institution that exists back home has done. Driving around in the evenings here will regale you with lights of every color (purple and pink seem to be favorites) and blinking speed strung in some of the most *ahem* creative fashions one can imagine. I kid, but it is quite festive despite it being nothing like back home. Or should I say… in all honesty, it has all pretty much grown on me.

On Saturday, KH had an extra day of work, so I chose to spend my time getting out to enjoy the beauty of Japanese Christmas and do some shopping in Kamakura. Lo and behold, did this town surprise me! Perhaps it was because it was daytime and the more garish colors do not stand out, but the Christmas that was strewn about was actually quite tasteful and pretty! The temperature was perfect for outdoor shopping… in the cool low 50s, only dropping to the upper 30s after the sun set around 4:30. The streets and shops were filled with weekend patrons. The shop shelves were filled with the ever popular Santa image and even more so with the Japanese new year decoration, as that holiday is much more important to the culture. By the way, this coming year is the year of the mouse… which I only discovered after asking a shop owner what many stuffed, porcelain, wooden, straw, the list goes on, and on, and on, crazy-looking mice were for.

The cold weather daiyaki (kind of a grilled pancake with anko (red bean paste) inside) vendors were out in force. And a new ice cream vendor, Marble, has opened next to the train station. I made this my last stop of the day to get a chocolate cream with orange sauce, which turned out to be something like orange peel in a jellied state, topped with a signature wafer.

Arms filled with bags, mind filled with decorating ideas, I headed back home to put the Christmas touches on our home.

Happy Japanese holiday season, all! And don’t forget that Emperor Akihito’s Birthday is coming up on December 23rd which is indeed a national holiday!

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