‘Christmas in Japan’

Going deep.

The decorations, the music, the merchandise, it’s all there, and yet, something is missing?  For my friends in Japan, both past and present who have survived a Christmas in here, you know exactly what I’m talking about.  For the rest of you reading this, please take my word for it when I say that Christmas in Japan just doesn’t quite cut the ol’ yuletide log.

This is a recent video I took of Midosuji, which is the main street that runs through the city north to south)…really beautiful in person!

Wait, no working on Christmas!?  Lazy sucker!

I will never forget my first Christmas in Japan…it was both miserable and memorable.  My roommate, Camm, was on holiday and his girlfriend was in town from Australia.  I remember looking at Camm as I was getting ready.  He was sitting on our recycled, mini, blue couch.  He was wearing a jacket, with a towel around his waste.  His lady was up making him breakfast.  A bitter dude, I was.

When I got to work (at the time I was working at an English conversation school), I was in a rotten mood, but I was hopeful that the schedule wouldn’t be so busy, it being Christmas and all.  I was wrong.  It turned out to be one of the busiest days I’d had.

That’s Rob on the right…unfortunately, I don’t have a shot of him as Santa.  I was probably laughing too hard to hold still.

My mood quickly turned for the better when I glanced over at my co-worker, Rob, a quite guy from Minnesota.  Rob had tried to make egg-nog out of out of lemons by wearing a Santa outfit, which was a  crack up, because he was the last guy I would’ve pictured wearing something like that.

Anyway, the funniest part of this is that, when I saw Rob look at the schedule on the door, decked out in his Santa gear, it nearly brought tears of sadness to his eyes… and tears of laughter to mine!  I had never seen a guy’s mood change so quickly as Rob’s had…he looked as if someone had just told him his new puppy been plowed over by a snow truck.

nectar of the gods when you are working on Chrismas

The other funny bit about that workday was that I brought in a bottle of ‘Baileys’ liqueur to the office (our manager was off that day) and we made hot chocolate and spiked it with the sweet nectar.  I really think it’s the only thing that got us through the day.  I remember being a little toasty and looking at the other guys “teaching” (we worked in one of these open room plans) and bursting into fits of laughter.  The students, not knowing what else to do, would join me; what a scene.

The park…looks (and feels) a lot different in winter

Moving along…  After work, I rushed home, went to the park for a little exercise on the monkey bars and then wanted to take a quick shower, so I could make it on time for my dinner plans.  Well, I hop in the shower, ready to let the hot, steamy water wash away my worries of the day (and the cold sweat I’d worked up at the park) and get the shock of a lifetime; the water was ICE COLD!  Keep in mind, this is winter in Japan and at the time it was in the low 40’s (Fahrenheit).  I quickly jumped out and let it the shower run for a minute or two, thinking it just had to warm up some more…nothing.

Next, I went outside in nothing but my towel, and open up the water box to see what is going on, only, I don’t know what the hell I’m looking at, cause it’s all in Japanese.  So, here I am, soaking wet with frigid water, standing in the outside hallway in my flimsy towel, fumbling with this stupid box when I realize I am running a little late, so I run my skinny butt back inside.

Cold is an understatement

There is no way out of this…I brave the shower…worst of my life.  I’d get wet, step away, soap up and then go back under the nozzle again for another beating.  It was so f’n cold that I had a headache when I finished.

After the arctic shower from hell, I rushed off to meet a couple of Japanese girls I had met a couple weeks prior for a little Christmas dinner….at a Mexican restaurant named, “El Panchos”…just like mama used to make; tradition at it’s finest!  We ate, had a couple of drinks and then called it a nite.  The girls wanted to go somewhere else, but I was so exhausted from the day’s events, I just wanted to get home.

“Excuse me, senor, do have have turkey? Pumpkin pie perhaps?

So, now I have to take a subway home.  I’m underground, just about to get on the train, when I get a call from my friend Ackie, and he asks me to join him and our other friend, Hide for a Christmas drink.  Had it been anyone else, I would’ve turned them down post-haste, but Ackie was like my Japanese mentor and I felt obligated, so I rushed out of the station, found their jeep on the street and we all went for a drink at a small, sheik-like bar/lounge on the top floor of some building I’d never been too.

Not OUR shark

Inside the place they had a large, saltwater fish tank with a small shark in it that kept swimming in circles.  There were a few other people in the bar and some Christmas lights sprinkled throughout.  Christmas music played in the background.

We ordered three drinks and waited…and waited…and waited.  And while we were waited, we bs’d a little and stared at the shark.  I was telling Hide how I once heard on television that a shark never stops swimming.  When it wants to sleep, it shuts down half it’s brain and swims around in a circle until it’s ready to rest the other side.  Moments later, we both look over at Ackie and he is drifting off to sleep to one side…repeatedly.  Hide commented that he Ackie was just like the shark…it was all so surreal.  Our simple drink order took a good 20 minutes at least (despite the place being relatively empty), the Christmas music, the shark, Ackie, the one wanting to get a drink in the first place, half-asleep…it was a perfectly weird ending to a perfectly weird day.

Good grief, Joe Stewart.

They drove me home afterward and as lay in bed in the wee hours of the morning and reflected on the day’s events, I was both sad and thankful.  I would’ve much rather had been home in Florida for the holidays, but I also knew that I had just experienced one of the oddest, most memorable Christmas days of my life.

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