Holiday Shopping

I forgot that it’s New Year this week and that it’s a huge holiday in Japan.  Attempting to grocery shop today quickly reminded me of my folly.  It’s nasty out there.  There are extra staff at the shopping centre to deal with the cars, the grocery store has brought in extra tables to give more room for packing groceries, and the queues for the tills stretch right down the store.  It’s horribly like shopping for food in Northern Ireland before Christmas.  But here I don’t have a car and the stores don’t open in the middle of the night so I can’t sneak out and do my shopping when people are sleeping.

I was not ready for any of this when I wandered out of my apartment building.  I grocery shop nearly every day and my grocery shopping is limited by what I can carry.  Today I planned to buy food for one meal. It’s midweek so I expected to do this in about 15 minutes.  And then I saw the crowds, the New Year decorations and signs, and I realised that the shops would probably close over the holiday and that I needed to buy food for multiple days.

I was not dressed for crowds.  I have a cold, like so many people do at this time of year, and I was feeling dazed and sluggish when I got dressed this morning.  I put on old clothes and was too lazy to change my trousers when I realised they were too big, as I was going to run quickly to the store.  I stuck on my biggest coat, to cover up my awful clothes, and shuffled out.  As soon as I stepped into the sunlight I started to sneeze, my nose started to drip, and the weight of my coat was causing my trousers to slid uncomfortably down.  I ended up in the bathroom at the store trying to fix these problems while staring at my pasty white face.  I looked awful and this was before I had braved the store.

I managed to buy food for two days and instead of writing this blog post I need to make myself go back to the store.  I know that it will be open again tomorrow but the crowds aren’t going to get any smaller, if anything it will get worse as more people get off work for the holiday.

Merry Christmas!

This year I don’t have to dream about a white Christmas.  It’s so beautiful in Niseko, cold, but a great way to spend the holiday.

Christmas Eve Sledding

Christmas Eve Sledding

Niseko Trip

For the first time in years Marty isn’t working over Christmas so we thought we would go away.  I do love snow at Christmas time so we are spending a few days in Niseko village.  We plan to ski, snowboard, go snow shoeing, ride a snow mobile, and hopefully take a sleigh ride with a reindeer.

Reindeer at Niseko

Reindeer at Niseko

Christmas Traditions

This will be my 8th Christmas in Japan and it still feels bizarre.  Holiday traditions were a much bigger part of my life in Northern Ireland than I realised.  I know that things can’t be the same here in Japan but there are still things I miss.

I miss singing carols and Christmas songs. I always went to church over the Christmas holidays and as a child I used to go carol singing.  I loved how it felt to be outside singing in the cold and dark on Christmas Eve.  Here I still listen to Christmas music but to sing it I go to karaoke.  We did that during the week and it would have been more fun if we hadn’t got stressed out by Japanese questions that we couldn’t understand.  I still don’t know what the question was but the man behind us in the queue said in English that they wanted to check that I was over 20… I got carded at karaoke!

Food is a really big part of any holiday and I happen to love Christmas food.  Japanese food is great but not christmassy at all.  I do cook and I can make nearly every Christmas thing I like to eat if only I had the ingredients.  None of my recipe books on how to make the perfect Christmas dinner deal with ingredient substitution or problems like baking in a small electric oven.  In Japan turkey is an expensive frozen food that you can get from themeatguy or foreign supermarkets.  Christmas cake is a white sponge and covered in cream and fresh strawberries and doesn’t contain dried fruit, marzipan, and icing. I did want to bake some cakes that don’t have fruit but there is a butter shortage in Tokyo.  It’s not all bad, one of my friends sent me some Dutch Christmas food and I’ve been enjoying eating that in the evenings.

I miss my Christmas Eve party and having friends over to wrap presents.  Now most of my Christmas shopping is done online and Amazon wraps my presents for me.  I did still wrap quite a few things this year and I brought jumbo rolls back from Northern Ireland to do it.  Japanese wrapping paper is beautiful but it tends to be more suited to wrapping books or DVDs than it does bulky PJs or toys in large boxes.  I do still have parties at Christmas but they have to take place on the weekends around the holiday and don’t always involve Christmas food.

Some of the changes have nothing to do with living in Japan, just the changing times.  In December I saw a copy of the Christmas Radio Times and I was overcome with nostalgia.  As a child I loved to read that and the T.V. Times as it told me what films we could watch at Christmas time.   Now I am spending time on iTunes downloading the T.V. series that we want to catch up on over the holidays (Dr Who Season 8) and have bought movies on Blu-Ray to watch.  Watching T.V. wasn’t even a consideration.  I suppose T.V. being in Japanese doesn’t help but browsing T.V. channels is not something I really do.

Even though things are different I still love the holiday season and I’m going to enjoy the Christmas week.  And this year, thanks to Marty’s Christmas present, I won’t have to dream of a white Christmas.


I travel a lot and have gotten really good at packing. But I still suck at unpacking. Mind you I’m not sure that there are unpacking tips.  It’s a boring task that involves making sure everything is put away properly so that I can be good at packing for my next trip.   I’ve been home nearly a week and I’m not finished.  The cables and chargers will have to wait until tomorrow as the six currencies that I sorted through this morning have killed my desire to sort out anything else.

I’m sure I’ll be finished before I have to fly again next Monday…

Berry Kristmush!

Fast food companies in Japan have thrown themselves into turning Christmas into a commercial holiday.  This year’s food offering from Burger King doesn’t appeal to me as much as the “traditional” KFC one and it’s not just because of the terrible pun.  And really “mush” is an awful thing to shorten mushroom to if you want me to eat your food.

Burger King Christmas Food

Burger King Christmas Food

I’m a little horrified that I live in a country that is trying to turn fast food into a Christmas tradition.


Baby It's Cold

It’s December and time for my annual moan about the cold.  I arrived home last night to find that Tokyo has become just as cold as Ireland.  I like to tease my Mum about how cold her house is but I will admit that I miss the electric blanket I used there.  At the minute I’m sitting on my heated floor wearing fluffy PJs and wrapped in a fluffy blanket and I am still not warm.  Once I get warm enough to put down my lapwarmer / laptop I’m going to put up the Christmas Tree.  And even if it’s cold I’m happy to be home.