Saturday, December 25, 2010

Meri Kurisumasu!

Somewhat appropriately, it snowed on Christmas Day. In fact, it was extremely windy and cold and the weather was pretty miserable. Nevertheless, I still had a great time!

I started out the day with a trip to Canal City where I planned to strategize for the day in a coffee shop and visit Muji, my favorite Japanese store. While there, I decided to take a walk over to the Fukuoka Art Museum. I like to take at least one walk when I'm traveling in a new city, because you get to see things you might not otherwise. It turned out to be a very long walk (about 3.5 miles!) however, and while walking it started to snow, sleet, rain, and become very windy. By the time I got to the museum I was quite chilled! Thank goodness for my sock monkey hat.

The museum itself is very nice - in fact it's quite inexpensive (a few hundred yen only) and shows off art and culturally important artifacts from ancient times to present day. Ironically, the modern art collection is traveling in the US currently, but what remained was still worth seeing. I am constantly impressed by the quality of the museums in Japan and love that they are so affordable - even though there aren't many people visiting them (at least not right now). When was the last time you went to a museum of that quality in Vancouver for less than $10? Or Seattle for that matter.

One of the things I noticed on my way over to the museum was a Freshness Burger (there are definitely rewards to walking around!). I used to eat there occasionally when I worked in Japan before, so I decided to eat lunch there for old time's sake. Delicious!

One of the best Xmas lunches ever!

The weather was still terrible, so I took a break back at the hotel for the afternoon and then went out for Christmas dinner in the basement of Canal City - a simple tonkatsu set and beer. Fast, hot food! Apparently everyone else decided to do the same thing, however, since every restaurant had huge line-ups.

Xmas lights in 'canal' part of Canal City.

You might be wondering what it's like to spend Christmas in Japan - do people say 'Merry Christmas', decorate their houses with lights, and eat Christmas dinner like we do in North America? The answer to all three questions is yes, but as I've found with many non-Japanese things, Japan takes them and puts its own spin on them, making them uniquely Japanese. For example:
  • Christmas dinner: I watched a program on TV about what to eat for Christmas dinner, where Chinese dumplings were featured as an appetizer. 'Kurisumasu Keiki' (Christmas Cake) was found at a combini (convenience store), and it was not fruit cake. Everything looked delicious, however!
  • Christmas music: it's often played in stores or train stations, but usually there are no lyrics, and sometimes they are pretty obscure (when I arrived at Hakata Station the first time, they were playing the Huron Carol).
  • Christmas lights: people don't tend to light their houses here, as electricity is pretty expensive. I noticed more commercial buildings lit up now than when I lived here five years ago, however, and both Osaka and Fukuoka have had 'Christmas' light shows. They are really only loosely Christmas related, however, and more like festivals of light. In Osaka, they had individual light sculptures, one being a dragon! Very cool, but not exactly Christmas-y.
Watching the English dubbed version of the NHK news (yay, bilingual TV!) on Christmas, there weren't very many Christmas-related news stories, except one about shopping and a few short interviews with kids about what presents they are getting/got. I find that in North America, holiday-themed stories start in the fall and continue all the way to December, and take up much of the news time! I much prefer how they do it here. And somehow, when you aren't completely inundated with it, the occasional 'Meri Kurisumasu' seems much more meaningful. :)

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