So Christmas has come & gone in Tokyo. And it’s been a lot of fun.
But despite the way in which the Japanese wholeheartedly throw themselves into celebrating the trappings of Christmas, the actual day doesn’t have the same special feel that it does in England. For the most part it’s just another day, with people working, shopping and getting on with life like on any other.
There are some similarities though. Firstly, it’s really about the kids. For them, there is still that touch of Christmas magic: a visit from Santa and the promise of new toys at the end of the bed. Secondly, food is still a big feature (or it was for us at least). More specifically, eating until you can barely move was a feature. And as you grow older, isn’t that the best thing about Christmas anyway?
Our festive feast began on Mio’s birthday – the 23rd – with a distinctly European feel. First off was lunch: home-made tortilla (featuring a whole bottle of olive oil) and a glass of bubbly followed by passionfruit birthday cheesecake from the sensationally good bakery just down the road from us, Maison de Petit Four. おいしかった！
We continued the European theme in the evening with a visit to Il Casita, a posh Italian restaurant in Akasuka, to tuck into their クリスマス (kurisumasu) set menu. Like in all Italian restaurants in Japan, the food had a distinctly Japanese twist, but the sense of authenticity was guaranteed by our genuine Italian waiter Pio, who had a distinctly un-Japanese style of serving tables, involving lots of friendly banter and tales of his travels around the globe.
The food was good but the presentation was even better with some nice little touches (along with the – as always – excellent company!) really helping to make the night a memorable one…
Christmas Eve here is traditionally a ‘couples’ day but we took a break from tradition – and from fixating on food – to spend it with friends partaking in that other favourite Christmas past-time… drinking!
On Christmas morning we were up early to travel across town to help out one of my Japanese teachers, who also runs an English school for primary school kids. After the children had got over the shock of seeing a real life gaijin in their class and introduced themselves in their best English, we helped out with playing games and singing Christmas songs. At one point we took a break for two young musicians to give an adorable piano and violin recital of jingle bells.
Our role was simply to be a real life, 3D incentive for them to practice their English but in the end it worked out as more of a two-way language exchange – partly because the amount of english a 3 year old can understand is pretty limited and partly because at the moment I can’t help myself practicing Japanese at any opportunity available!
In the evening we had friends over for Christmas dinner – albeit one without a turkey or brussel sprout in sight. We kept pretty much to the European theme again, with Christmas lasagne as the centrepiece.
The canapes were a little more locally flavoured though, with salmon roe & shiso (Japanese basil) and raw salmon & tomato amongst the selections…
Our guests brought along about as much food again as we’d already prepared (including the canapes!) and the table was ready to overflow by the time we piled it all on. Even though we all ate far too much, the leftovers should still carry us through to the new Year. ありがとうございます Sh0-chan and Kame-chan!
Boxing day was spent at Mio’s parent’s house and this time the food was about as Japanese as you could get. Sushi party!!
To get the basic idea think Japanese tacos: a seaweed ‘shell’ that you fill with sushi rice, leek, egg, wasabi, soy sauce and your filling of choice from a platter of fresh fish. I made my way through pretty much everything on the table including two different cuts of tuna, minced tuna, uni (sea urchin) and some other kind of shellfish that I don’t know the name of. I let my origins slip though by continually returning to the rare roast beef filling. I’ve dreamt of this in sushi form for years now and yesterday I finally got a taste. Needless to say I wasn’t disappointed!
Once again, we ate til we could barely move. Or at least I did…
Anyway, all this talk of food is making me hungry, so I’m off to pick on some leftover lasagne.
Hope everybody reading also had a fantastic, food-filled Christmas!