The word blog is one that I’ve wrestled with over the years and had a love-hate relationship with. Mostly hate to be fair as in my mind blogging means someone just describing what they’ve done in their day. Of course I’ve been very guilty of doing that in the past and still occasionally finish posts with blog-like material tacked on to the end. I’m not really a fan of such a style of writing but this post will completely contradict that!
These ‘Christmas In Tokyo’ posts used to just include stuff done in the last week or two leading up to the 25th but now basically include anything that happened in the 4-5 weeks building up to the big day. It’s still all part of the festive season anyway! It got underway in late November when my nephew was around ours and started to play with my bendy Santa figure and construct this six inch tree ornament which actually is our only tree!
It seems to have been picked up by the UK media quite a bit in recent years, and indeed it is true that eating fried chicken, particularly KFC, is a big thing at Christmas in Japan. I first blogged about it back in December 2007 in a post about Japanese festive traditions and finally experienced it with some friends a couple of years ago. Never again!
No KFC this year but there was chicken news as the karaage-kun chicken pieces sold at Lawson convenience store saw a boost in sales due to them being on sale from a vending machine. There was a trial machine (below) in the store at the TOC Building in Osaki and I just happened to be in the area with time to kill when I read about it. Usually it takes about 15 seconds to purchase them but this time there was the option to buy them from a machine which can “make” them in 60 seconds. Instead, it took about 15 minutes of lining up before it was my turn to scan the back of the package which in turn opens the door. Pop the empty package inside, close the door and one minute later your fried chicken is ready!
In other chicken news, McDonalds got ready for the increased demand in chicken at this time of the year by offering 15 pieces of Chicken McNuggets (below) for just 390 yen with three sauces. To make it more festive, two of the sauces were called Merry Christmas steak sauce (soy sauce based with garlic, onion and cracked black pepper) and Happy New Year lobster mayo sauce (lobster powder and creamy mayonnaise). Both were nice but no replacement for barbecue sauce!
In other food news I came across these bread boobies (below) in Ogikubo earlier in the month and of course they were simply the breast!
Onigiri are balls of rice usually filled with salty or sour ingredients like salmon, tuna, pickled fruit etc but Lawson (them again!) brought out one with takoyaki (a wheat flour-based batter ball filled with diced octopus) in it and I have to say that it (below) was actually much better than I thought it would be.
This was the fourth straight year to spend Christmas in Tokyo so I’m kind of used to it but when I first did it three years ago I was a little bit apprehensive. It all worked out fine though and looking back now, I realise that they were amazing times as Leicester City were top of the Premier League table and the much anticipated Star Wars film ‘The Force Awakens‘ (2015) had just hit the cinemas.
Such heights probably can’t ever be reached again and I have to say that I did miss there not being a new Star Wars film as Disney decided to stick with the May release for ‘Solo: A Star Wars Story‘ (2018) when a now-traditional festive release would’ve been better as it would have allowed more space for ‘The Last Jedi‘ (2017) to breathe. My wife and I still went to the cinema though and watched the much hyped ‘Bohemian Rhapsody‘ which was really enjoyable.
As for Christmas films, I watched a few more than normal to get in the mood this year thanks to Plex and Amazon Prime services and these included ‘Bad Moms Christmas‘ (2017), ‘Christmas Trade‘ (2015), ‘Christmas With The Kranks‘ (2004) and ‘The Polar Express‘ (2004) plus seasonal regulars like ‘Home Alone‘ (1990), ‘Die Hard‘ (1988), ‘Elf’ (2003), ‘Jingle All The Way‘ (1996) and ‘Love Actually‘ (2003).
Also on my ever-growing seasonal playlist were TV specials like Bottom, Gavin & Stacey, The Thin Blue Line, The Simpsons, The Office, The Snowman and Mr Bean. There were a few festive-related costumes (below) at Tokyo ComicCon at the start of the month and one of my favourites was the Mr Bean turkey head which is a reference to the legendary Christmas TV special. I really do wonder how many of those in attendance at the convention actually got the reference!
On the final day at work I decided to do a gap fill activity for ‘Wonderful Christmastime‘ by Paul McCartney which proved to be a great choice (possibly my best ever!) as the students were well into it and even singing along with it due to its simplicity. Earlier in the week I had just re-used ‘Happy Xmas (War Is Over)‘ and the slightly less famous ‘Wrapped Myself In Paper‘ which is really only known by regular listeners to the Scott Mills Radio One show in the UK.
The only other new idea brought to the table for Christmas lessons was made up on the spot and called “One of Santa’s reindeers is a _____ reindeer” where the gap is filled with an adjective or whatever for each letter of the alphabet whilst the students throw a ball to each other to nominate the next person.
My Christmas party on the 23rd is as much a part of the seasonal calendar in Japan as fried chicken, illuminations and strawberry shortcake…..said nobody ever! It took place as usual in Takadanobaba and 16 friends attended. I was delighted as ever with the turn out but even if it was just a few people I’d be happy. It’s just a chance for those of us left behind at Christmas to get together for a few drinks ahead of the big day which actually isn’t big at all here as it’s just a regular working day for many.
That party pretty much brought the curtain down on my festivities for this year. I went out for dinner with my wife on both Christmas Eve and Christmas Day but it didn’t really feel like Christmas. It was just nice to not be alone as I was during the daytime on those days.
There were a couple of Christmas parties on consecutive Saturdays earlier in the month including one for my main school Shibuya and another for the one which I bowed out of in emotional fashion a couple of days after the Halloween Kids party following 8.5 years of graft.
Squeezed in between those two parties was a trip up to Saitama to see the Emperors Cup Final which is the second oldest tournament in the world after the English FA Cup. The day after that I met up with a mate from my university days called Stuart who I hadn’t seen for 19 years which was really nice. Sadly, we only had a short time together to chat.
Having re-read last years ‘Christmas In Tokyo 2017‘ post I remembered that I had included illuminations and thought I had better include some here too. I wasn’t gonna make too much effort to go and see them though so I chose to just pop along to Ebisu Garden Place during a break one evening at a nearby school.
Click here to read ‘Christmas 2017 In Tokyo’
Click here to read ‘Christmas 2016 In Tokyo’
Click here to read ‘Christmas 2015 In Tokyo’