Like my mother before me, I believe that Christmas gift shopping is not the gift shopping we do at Christmas time (or during the Christmas season) so much as it is the gift shopping we do for Christmas, at any time of the year. So like Mom, I often finish my Christmas shopping in August or September, leaving only stocking stuffer items for December. Throughout the year I keep an eye out for things that might make good gifts. My policy has habitually been to buy things I like or I want when I see them (and have the money), because if I delay then the chance will be gone. That’s my experience. Listening to people talk (complainingly) about Christmas shopping is an annoyance I have to tolerate.
For me the problem is not the shopping so much as remembering where I hid everything. Then retrieving it and wrapping it. Ugh!
Christmas is not a holiday in Japan. I often have to work on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. For Japanese school children December 25th is usually the last day of classes in their Second Term before the New Year holiday which is the major holiday in the Japanese calendar - sort of like Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Canada Day all rolled into one.
I had no work on the day before Christmas or Christmas Even last year, but that was an exception. Habitually I have used December 23rd as the day for my Christmas Party because December 23rd is a national public holiday in Japan to celebrate the Emperor's birthday. It didn’t feel like a holiday last year because it was a Saturday. Emperor Akihito (born December 23, 1933) turned 84. In the spring of 2019 he will become the first emperor to abdicate the Chrysanthemum Throne in over two centuries. In a rare television address to the nation on July 13, 2016 he expressed his desire to retire before old age and fatigue impede his ability to carry out his ceremonial functions, while reassuring everyone that he was still healthy and fit (despite surgery for prostate cancer , pneumonia , and heart bypass surgery ). At the time there was no legal protocol for a royal abdication, so the government of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe crafted and passed a one-time only abdication law. Akihito's eldest son, Crown Prince Naruhito, will succeed to the throne on April 30, 2019.
Because it was his birthday, December 23rd was one of the few days of the year when the general public is admitted to the Imperial Palace inner gardens to view the royal family waving to them from behind sturdy bullet-proof windows. I've never tried it because the crowds are too dense. I don't like crowds.
"Emperor" is "tenno" in Japanese. If you pay attention to American WWII movies, when the actors portraying Japanese troops make suicidal charges into USMC lines, dressed in rags and waving samurai swords, they are often shouting "Tenno!!!" or "Tenno heika!!!" That's historically accurate. They wanted the Emperor's name to be the last words issuing from their lips before leaving this world. Remember that up until the Second World War the Emperor was regarded as a living deity, so dying in battle with the word “tenno” on a soldier’s lips was like a dying prayer. Oh, well.
The Christmas Party that I habitually have attended on December 23rd (for its convenient proximity to Christmas) was, instead, held on December 24th to accommodate people’s schedules.
I can buy turkey meat in Tokyo, and I can even get a whole turkey from a Costco store. But Tokyo’s two Costcos are very far away. I need a car and a membership. Even if I had a turkey, Japanese kitchen ovens are not well suited to such a large thing. So I always make do with a whole roast chicken that I buy from a bakery already roasted. The meat is greasier than a turkey, but so what?
Christmas Day in Tokyo was cool and sunny. When I woke up the pavement of the street was wet from night time precipitation and the air smelled of wet. But when I went out for my usual newspaper at 7:00 a.m. the sky already looked promising, so I took a photograph of it and put it on Facebook. I have noticed in recent years the cessation of two old Japanese customs that I used to witness, but no more. First is the custom of convenience store workers dressing up in cheap Santa suits and standing outside their stores on Christmas Eve, when the weather is chilly, selling Christmas cake to people on their way home. I did see that years ago, but not recently. I surmise that it has largely been stopped. Or, maybe they just sell the cakes inside the warm store now, which makes good sense to me. I would like to get a picture of that. Second is something that I do have a picture of - the custom of delivery people to dress in cheap Santa suits during the Christmas season (not only on Christmas Eve) while they scoot around town on their motorbikes delivering stuff. Again, maybe some still do this, but I’ve had my eye out for it for the last few years and haven’t seen it recently.
Boxing Day (also not a holiday) seemed like a good time for dental plaque removal. So I had a dentist appointment.
The day after Boxing Day was a good day to clean house, because I took delivery of two pieces of furniture. I had to clean up, move other furniture and make space. New Year’s is the season in Japan for housecleaning anyway. In Canada it’s commonly done in the spring - “Spring cleaning.” But in Japan it’s done at the start of the New Year to help start things off fresh and clean and new.
After that, the time was ripe for thinking of seeing a movie in the cinema, a rare occasion for me. The biggest thing in the theaters now is the newest Star Wars film, but frankly, I think Star Wars has been flogged to death and I’m just bored with it. So I did something else instead. Recording studio! Rehearsal!