This was my third Christmas spent in Japan.
The first in 2009 I had my family with me, the hotel had a big tree (which disappeared pretty sharp after!), we had presents and board games. It wasn’t quite Christmas without carols in the local village, a turkey dinner and Christmas TV. But it was close.
Last Christmas (2012) wasn’t very joyful, my husband had just recently had a bereavement and things were difficult. It was my first ever Christmas to have to work but I was still kind of hopeful I would feel the Christmas magic. I even ordered overpriced KFC for Christmas dinner, which came with a commemorative plate but no Christmas magic. On the outside it looked a little like Christmas but it didn’t feel like it.
So, this year I was fully prepared to be underwhelmed by Christmas.
The tree went up at work the last week of November and our Schools Christmas party was mid-December. I was pretty organised about gifts this year, they were bought, packaged and sent by the beginning of December! We went to a few winter illumination events but not as many as last year, we also paid a visit to the huge tree in Kyoto station and a few Christmas German markets. I put a few decorations (same as last year) around the apartment and I could enjoyed listening to Christmas music on British radio and in every shop and convenience store.
Christmas for me starts with my wedding anniversary which is on Christmas Eve, although this year it fell on a Tuesday (a work day) so we celebrated on Monday! We went to Kyoto the same as last year.
First we visited Fushimi Inari Shrine as we hadn’t been for a long time. I didn’t relealise just how far those tori gates go on for. We didn’t even make it to the top this time either, after about an hour I said enough! Let’s move on! So we turned around.
Though at the bottom we did stop for some yakitori. Inari shrines have foxes and they had some cute plushies, J got one and gifted him to me!
Then we headed to town, took some anniversary purikura (with the fox).
And got some lunch, we chose a desserts place we’d seen many times with giant parfaits!
But then we ordered savory food! Lol. I had taco rice and it was delicious!
The shrine we got married in is in Kyoto and it seems appropriate to visit and pray on our anniversary so we jumped on a bus and went to it.
We just had time to give thanks and take a few pictures before we were ushered out the main gates so they could close! The good thing was that they turned the lanterns on after that and we could take some new lantern pics!
It was another long bus ride back to town, we wanted to eat at a posh restaurant we had vouchers for, unfortunately we couldn’t book in advance unless we wanted kaiseki (which we didn’t) and as Christmas Eve is like valentines day and lots of people have end of year parties…it was predictably fully booked. Gah. We walked around for a while and then decided on a DIY all you can eat kushi katsu place. You have a deep fat fryer in the middle of your table, a selection of sauces and things on sticks to kushi.
It couldn’t have been more the opposite of our first choice! We enjoyed it all the same.
As it was pretty dark we ventured back to Kyoto JR station to see the giant Christmas tree and absorb the atmosphere. Quite romantic!
And finally head home for some Christmas karaoke at our local JoySound. Fun times.
Monday was a normal work day but we did exchange our anniversary gifts, the traditional gift for 4 years is flowers. I made J a scrapbook of 2013 which took forever to make, ended up costing a small fortune in stickers and bits and looks like a four year old made it. Still it’s the thought that counts, and I finished it off with a poinsettia on top to fit the flower theme.
J made me these striking origami flowers! Clever boy.
We ate pizza, drank prosecco and watched a Christmas movie.
Christmas Day! By this time many many parcels had arrived from family and friends. J had had an interesting time collecting them from the post office.
So we had a whole sofa of gifts!!!
We got some faux bacon (bacon in Japan is not ‘bacon’ it’s fakeon) on the grill, cups of tea and orange juice and opened our presents one by one. Waaa. So much fun, and so much love. I felt like my family were with me as I opened their gifts! Just like Christmas mornings at home. My sisters were wrapped so lovely with little tags with hints and messages on. J surprised me with a rilakkuma stocking and Marc Jacobs pass case. My parents sent me presents marked as being from the dog and Father Christmas himself! I got Yorkshire Gold tea, a Cath Kidston iPad case, candles, bath bombs, chocolates and many more! I got the cutest polar bear pajamas from my friends. And from my in-laws a whole series of English and Christmas foods we’d requested – custard cremes, BBQ sauce, mulled wine spices, mince pies…oh my! I must have told people J needed socks as he got pairs and pairs from everyone!!
After all that excitement I had a bath and got ready for work. Before work though I dashed to the shops to pick up little gifts for my coworkers, I wanted to spread the Christmas love a little more :)
Work was uneventful, just the usual day, even though I wished everyone Merry Christmas we didn’t dress up or have a visit from Santa (disappoint).
Luckily for me my last lesson cancelled! And so I could leave early! I met up with J in Namba and some friends in an izakaya! Christmas dinner was tsukune, edamame and deep fried Camembert! Followed by lashings of beer! We did Christmas purikura and then karaoke!! We stumbled home at some ungodly hour and Skyped my family! Yay. An unconventional Christmas to say the least.
At some point we also ate Japanese Christmas cake, they not only think we eat chicken not turkey, but that Christmas cake is more of a cream covered sponge like a birthday cake. Oh well, it was pretty delicious.
Btw, it came with the candles.
My other sister deserves a special mention as well because even though she sent her parcel before everyone else, customs took it for inspection so we didn’t get it until this week. She surprised me with a longchamp bag, and handmade Christmas and anniversary cards by my 2 year old nephew, along with some modelling shots of him. Waa. So cute and happy. They both need epic birthday presents in return!
Thank you everyone who sent Christmas presents, cards and wishes!