Tag Archives: holidays

Holiday Ha Ha

Gather ’round, boys and girls. It’s time for…(drum roll)…

Jokes that are only funny if you live in Japan!


Several office ladies were gathered around the green tea dispenser in their crisply pressed uniforms. One of them said, “My boss is such a dope. He’s just the stupidest thing since the 8% sales tax. The other day, he actually rode the Marunouchi line from Ikebukuro to Shinjuku.”

Peals of laughter all around. Then another of the ladies said, “Hah! My boss is even stupider than that. Last February, he gave me chocolates on Valentines Day.”

Gales of laughter. Green tea went flying out of mouths and up noses. Crisp uniforms were sprayed misty green.

The Marunouchi line is the red one.
The Marunouchi line is the red one.

The Marunouchi subway line does indeed run from Ikebukuro to Shinjuku. But the above ground Shonan-Shinjuku, Saikyo and Yamanote lines also do that. There are three stations in between for a distance of just under 5km. Travel time: between 5 and 10 minutes. Cost: 160yen. The Marunouchi line departs Ikebukuro and heads southeast past Tokyo Station, loops toward the northwest and arrives at Shinjuku a whopping 17 stations and 24km later. Travel time: unavailable. No one has ever actually done it. Cost: interestingly, only 170yen, the minimum fee for subways because it’s based on the actual distance between the two stations.

As for Valentines Day, Japan loves to absorb customs and traditions from other countries, but they sometimes get a tad warped. On Valentines Day, women are meant to give gifts to men and not the other way around. It’s usually chocolate and has become obligatory in working situations. It’s called “giri choco” and usually ends up being passed along to wives or girlfriends since macho, manly Japanese men would mostly prefer to drink beer than eat sweets. Obviously, this is not fair. It puts undue pressure on women to spend money on men who still generally get paid more than women do, so in these enlightened days of sexual equality, the candy companies invented White day, March 15, when men are meant to buy candy for women. Mostly they don’t.

In recent years, Halloween has boomed in popularity. People are always shocked when I tell them it’s not a national holiday and nobody but kids really cares about it. Ditto Valentines Day. Although it’s not unheard of for friends to give each other gifts, it’s really meant for lovers, which is how Christmas is treated here. If you’re dating, you’re meant to go out for an expensive, romantic Christmas dinner. Families eat KFC and strawberry shortcake, which is available all year, but at Christmas time comes with a plastic Santa and costs twice as much. There’s just as much commercial hype as in the States–music, decorations, sweets–but the celebration is on Christmas eve. Everyone gets up and goes to work as usual on Christmas day. I did a boxing class at the dojo, which is ironic considering that today is Boxing day, at least in England, where it is a national holiday, but is unheard of both in the States and in Japan. December 23, on the other hand, is a national holiday here, the emperor’s birthday, but I had to work. And I worked after boxing class, so today is Christmas in my head. To celebrate, we went out and bought ourselves some treats.

PENTAX DIGITAL CAMERAHappy holidays, everyone. I hope 2015 will be as awesome as 2014 has been.

The Tale of the Pie

PENTAX DIGITAL CAMERA I was mixing up the ingredients for a Thanksgiving pumpkin pie using the antique wooden spoon my mother sent me and I wondered how many other women, over the years, had mixed up those very same ingredients for that very same purpose using that very spoon.

Or almost the same. Thanksgiving isn’t a holiday here, so we feasted on Saturday. And Japanese pumpkins aren’t orange, they’re green. And I had asked for the spoon because all I could find here were flat paddles made of bamboo. Their shape hurts my hand if I have to do a lot of mixing. And there’s something about the feel of a smooth, well-seasoned wooden spoon handle that brings out the holiday spirit in me.

I have learned to find substitutions that will work, making do with what I can find here when I’m trying to create things that are not a part of this culture. And I think I’ve gotten pretty good at it. The pie came out pretty well.

That's Yoshio's delicious cranberry upside down cake next to it.
That’s Yoshio’s delicious cranberry upside down cake next to it.

And everyone seemed to enjoy it.

Misha and Miranda

Despite the sorrows and tribulations of the past couple of years, and we’ve all had them, we can still stuff ourselves with turkey and all the fixin’s and take the time to appreciate the people we love.

Tokyo is already whipping itself into the usual year end frenzy. Trees are illuminated in a gaudy but somehow tasteful explosion of consumerism, the supermarkets are playing Christmas songs ad nauseum, and Santas and Rudophs are springing up like an infestation of locusts. But things are going to be all right. I’ve got my wooden spoon, and it somehow gives me a feeling of belonging and continuity. So I will gird myself to survive the holiday season and plow on into next year.

Happy holidays, everyone.

White Day

Somehow, Valentine’s Day got kind of twisted around in Japan and became a tradition of women giving men goodies either out of affection or obligation, which is ironic, because most Japanese men prefer beer to sweets and these presents end up being passed on to wives or girlfriends.

So anyway, a confectionery industry association dreamed up the concept of White Day, whereby, on March14th, men are supposed to give women presents in return.

From the guys at work.
Chocolates from the guys at work.

It does seem that they could have come up with a better name for it, though. White Day? That’s the best they could do? Why not Rainbow Day? Or Pink Polka Dot Day? Or Amazing Multicolored Celebration of All Things Female Day? Or Thanks for Wearing That Mini Skirt It Made My Day?

Come on, guys. Loosen the purse strings and hire a proper copywriter.

I’m available, by the way.


New Years

Thank goodness the holidays are nearly over. The way the calendar worked out this year, I’ve got ten days off and although I am the slothfulest of the slothful, that is really too many. New year’s tradition says we’re supposed to sit around eating osechi ryori while staring at the TV. Well, tradition since the 21st century anyway. I guess before TV, people sat around and stared at each other.


But although osechi is pretty to look at, it’s troublesome to make and doesn’t taste all that good, so I don’t really bother anymore.  And there’s nothing on TV except slapstick comedy, sappy song shows and sports, especially the annual ekiden relay marathons. I can think of nothing so mind-numbingly boring as watching other people run, except maybe watching them play golf. I can’t imagine how the commentators can stand it. “The guy in the lead is still in the lead and the guy behind him…is still behind him.” Yikes.

So I put away the Christmas stuff, did a bunch of paperwork, tidied up my desk and files, washed my sweaters, mended my gym bag and even baked cookies but I’m running out of things to do.

So now I am talking to you, gentle readers, and wishing you bright skies and happy horizons in 2013. May your journey along the rutted road of life be smooth.