Christmas in Japan just isn’t the same for me. Sure, it’s cold and it did snow the first year I was here, which was something I’d wanted to experience, but then the reality hit.
Christmas here is for couples, not families as it is for every Western country. Plus, I missed my summer fruit and rumballs (Google that if you’re not an Aussie and no, it’s nothing dirty!)
My single foreign friends here all agree it can be lonely, but I certainly wasn’t and that was all because of my local konbini [コンビニ].
Firstly though, let me talk a little about Christmas in Japan for newbies.
Christmas means fried chicken and strawberry shortcake. I… yeah well… I can’t say why Japanese people think this is what we eat for Christmas in Western countries, but there you have it. It is yet another Great Mystery of Japan that baffles foreigners and makes us exclaim, “WTF Japan?!”
As for me, I’m an Aussie, so trying to explain that our Christmas is different yet again from other Western countries because it’s summer and not winter is something that just blows Japanese people’s minds. Thus, I gave up a long time ago and just shut my mouth.
Anyway, forget everyone’s favourite, KFC (or Kentucky Fried Chicken as they refer to it here) for supplying your Christmas fried chicken; it’s too expensive. People book months ahead for that stuff and the lines are out the door when they need to collect it. I have one word for that:
[めんどくさい] or troublesome. In other words, I cannot be bothered.
Instead, head to 7-Eleven or Family Mart to pick up your own super cheap version. You can choose from a variety of types, just like in the konbini Christmas catalogues and go home with money to spare. Money, which can be used to buy you a celebratory drink instead of strawberry shortcake.
Ah yes, which brings me to another point. I detest strawberries, so the whole strawberry shortcake thing doesn’t get the excitement juices flowing. Yes, that may shock many people. What kind of weirdo doesn’t like strawberries?! Me, that’s who and some other people. Strawberry milk, fine. Strawberry chocolate, fine. Strawberry jam, fine. But the fruit, hell no. So, strawberry shortcake is not on my wish list for Christmas. I’m not really a cake person anyway, so Christmas here is kind of a let-down.
As for New Year’s food and konbini, you are able to buy o-sechi [おせち] or traditional New Year’s food sets, but they are crazily and insanely expensive. I asked some Japanese female friends (because they’re always the ones who make them, not the men!) whether it was cheaper to buy one or make your own and they all agreed, make your own.
And if, like me, you don’t like anything other than the kuro-mame [黒豆] or sweet black beans and the sweet red bean soup known as zenzai [ぜんざい] or
[おしるこ], you can find both products at konbini. That means you can buy them separately and save yourself wasting the rest. Combine it with some cup sake and stay inside for the entire New Year’s holidays, thus keeping warm both on the outside and the inside (of your body!)
Whichever way you decide to celebrate Christmas and New Year’s, make sure you stay warm and surround yourself with the loved ones you now consider, ‘family, here.
As for me, according to my friends, I’ll be spending Christmas in the best possible place: the sky, as I leave Hiroshima and Japan and head back to Australia. I’m so looking forward to summer and sunshine.
Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!