Christmas over here is very different from England; it’s not an official holiday and you don’t get a day off if it falls on a weekday. There is no feeling of a countdown to a cosy time with family and gift-giving. Instead, it’s a commercial affair that is directed mostly at couples – and after having been out on the evening of the 25th I can testify that everywhere you look, you’re gonna see a couple. It’s funny and surreal. And everybody tries to go for a KFC if they can.
Japan does have the equivalent of a family holiday that Christmas is to England – it is celebrated on New Year’s Eve, much like in my home country Russia. I’m yet to experience the Japanese New Year celebrations, but that will come later, when I set off for Tokyo in a few days.
I managed to have a very lovely Christmas with my Oxford friends, who feel more like a family by now. Whenever it’s holiday time, or even my birthday, I feel strangely down – something many people experience. However, we were lucky to have days off on the 23rd, 24th, and 25th, so I was determined to try and cultivate a festive mood.
We all went to Osaka on the 23rd to visit a German Christmas market. That was a surreal sight, because the market is right next to the Umeda Sky Tree building, amidst a steel jungle, and yet there was an atmosphere of a small and cosy European Christmas market. I guess this is how Chinese tourists feel when they visit the London China Town – it’s cute and sells familiar food, but something is a bit off. To top off the confusion, we went to a lovely Indian restaurant nearby, and enjoyed the cultural mix that our little Christmas outing turned out to be.
The 24th was a quiet day, spent watching Doctor Who Christmas specials and doing last-minute present shopping. By the morning of the 25th we had an impressive mountain of presents under a tiny Daiso-made Christmas tree in Hannah’s room. This was the cutest time – opening funny presents from each other and our families; helping each other not to feel homesick. Then we slowly started cooking Christmas dinner (I contributed mostly with my presence since I’m terrible in the kitchen). Frank made the loveliest vegetarian burgers! After eating together we crawled out of our comfy sits to go to Kobe’s Harborland, an area full of shops and other attractions. They had an open-air ice skating rink right by the sea and it really felt like a magical evening. We finished it off with a ride on the ferris wheel and spontaneous face-timing with our parents.
So, I managed to have a great Christmas in Japan, even though the country hardly acknowledges it as a holiday. It’s all thanks to my friends, of course.
New Year’s is next and I’m very excited, as I will be in Tokyo for it! I will update with my experience in a couple of weeks, because I will be on the go for the nearest future. Hopefully it will be a great time.