Sunday, December 25, 2016.
Christmas Eve 2016
I remember my first Christmas Eve in Japan in December 1989. It was raining and cold and I was alone in my cold apartment with no tree or other decorations eating a Big Mac, watching dumb Japanese TV shows on a black-and-white set and wondering if my parents would telephone me. Looking back on it I think I ought to have spent the money to travel home for that first holiday. After a while I thought, “Hey, Tokyo is one of the greatest cities in the world. The Ginza is one of the most famous shopping areas. Something must be going on!” So I went out in the rain and in an hour I was walking among the great department stores of The Ginza. But it was dead. Nobody on the streets, nothing open, no holiday illumination, no Christmassy music blaring from PA systems.
Since then Tokyo has changed a lot. First, Halloween has taken off uncontrollably among young people. Second, Christmas has become much more of a thing. Now there is plenty to do during the year-end season even though December 25th is not a holiday here. In addition, I have a family now to be together with. December 23rd is a holiday for the Emperor’s birthday, and this year Christmas fell on a weekend giving us all a three-day holiday weekend by chance. In those years when the 25th falls on a weekday my children go to school for the last day of classes and I sometimes work. Not this year, though.
On Saturday 24th this year I spent the morning at home surfing the internet and doing Facebook. Once I was free I went to the Jimbocho Booktown district to quickly visit some used bookstores. I picked up a single-column German Bible that I had seen previously and that I had my eye on. After that I came straight home - no more extra shopping for me - and I spent the afternoon either on my computer or reading until I was due to leave home and go to a Christmas dinner party at my baachan’s apartment about a ten minute walk north of home. I never like to arrive too early because I’ve learned from experience that the meal usually isn’t ready at the time I’m told. I know I have some leeway. So after 5:00 p.m. I was still in my apartment, getting ready to go. My plan was to make a detour first to the local Tatsuya DVD rental shop to return a couple videos (the new all-female Ghostbusters and Suicide Squad. Ghostbusters was okay but not great. I had already seen it in the movie theatre, and Suicide Squad was unadulterated sewage. Once again it confirms my absolute hatred of movies based on comic books.).
After leaving Tatsuya I passed the Hikawa Shrine. It was only 5:40 p.m. but it was already dark. The torii gate of the shrine was illuminated and the surrounding foliage gave it a green hue. I thought the colours and shades were really neato, so I took this picture.
Christian worship services at the local Japanese Presbyterian church were available, but the notice I received in the mail said that their services were from 6:00 to 7:00, which conflicted with my family dinner party, so there.
Christmas dinner this year consisted of an entrée of hot meatball soup, potato salad, assorted steam vegetables, and French bread. I felt full enough after that that I thought that was all. But then the main course was served: boneless roast chicken. So I ate that, too, except for the skin. Finally after that came desert Christmas cake Japanese style (a strawberry layer cake, not a fruit cake) and cookies. During it all we had a CD of Christmas music in the background and while the family was chatting away in Japanese after the meal I turned on grandma’s TV to watch the 1954 Bing Crosby, Danny Kaye holiday classic White Christmas. Eventually I left shortly before 10:00 p.m. before the movie was finished. I didn’t like it as much as I thought I would. (Incidentally, despite Bing Crosby’s reputation it looked to me like Danny Kaye was the better singer and dancer of the two.)
After getting home I fretted and dithered and wasted time getting Christmas presents in order. I fooled around on the computer for a couple more hours before finally getting down to playing Santa Claus around 1:00 a.m.