Christmas in Japan

Date: Tue, 25 Dec 2001

Subject: Christmas in Shizuoka


This is both a missive of merry feelings and a theoretically brief recount of recent events.


So first off, all the best to you all this season, and I hope things are going well wherever you are.


Since the in-home oven is a rather new idea in Japan—my apartment has only a stovetop—it's not entirely surprising that it isn't possible to buy a whole turkey in this country. The odd thing, however, is that, instead, people buy banquet dinners from KFC, where the life-sized effigy of the Colonel guards the door in Santa garb to mark the season. On Christmas Eve, the entire restaurant below my school was filled with boxes waiting to be picked up. It's just one of those things that seems to have lost something in the translation overseas.


To compensate for our inability to do a proper dinner, a pot luck-style Christmas dinner was arranged between myself, my housemates Mr. Brown and The English, The English’s girlfriend The Canadian, and Mr. Brown’s erstwhile housemate. Mr. Brown had a salivation-inducing chicken recipe that he wanted to try out, and we all gathered on Christmas Day to prepare for our feast in The Canadian’s apartment. The Canadian lives two floors above me, so we were all running up and down the stairs to make full use of the collective total four burners we had between our two apartments.


I was limited to providing bread (an expensive treat in Japan—six slices will run you about $2), a Sara Lee cheesecake I'd found at the grocery store, and some drinks. Mr. Brown’s ex-housemate also had her own sponge cake, and she whipped up her own cream with an electric mixer that had only one beater, leaving us with a massive surfeit of highly delicious cream, which was placed in a Tupperware container. I offered the use of the Mrs. Field's cookies I'd just received from home, figuring we could crumble some of them up and put the crumbs around the side of the cake. I didn't know what to mash them with, so The Canadian, with total sincerity, offered me a wrench. I demurred, so The English, who was polishing off his first bottle of wine, did something with it and it was never seen again. Meanwhile, I took a wooden spoon to the cookies and ended up sitting on the floor with the crumbs between two sheets of Saran wrap, mashing them with a coffee cup. In the end, the cake looked great with the crumbs, but we again had a surfeit, so the bonus crumbs were added to the Box of Cream.


We finally sat down to dinner and The English and I both made a point of eating some of everything. And since Mr. Brown’s flour, cheese, and mushroom-sauce coated chicken was particularly delectable, we had thirds of it. The English, of course, decided that the other chicken dish just wasn't filling enough, so he coated it with mashed potatoes, while I devoured anything with the slightest hint of cheese or bacon.


The English and I were matching each other dish-for-dish, but I will admit I balked initially when, after dinner and two cakes, Mr. Brown’s ex-housemate brought out donuts and the Box of Cream and insisted that The English make a combined delicacy of the two. I followed suit about five minutes of digestion later.


On top of all this, just about the only thing my parents sent me in my Christmas presents was food. I am going to be horribly ill this season.


And there still remains the Box of Cream.


I was supposed to work overtime at The English and The Canadian’s school today, but I messed up the paperwork so they didn't schedule any classes for me. Hence, I am writing this to all of you. Bless my idiocy, and have a happy holiday season.

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