Hi again everyone!
Today I’m going to talk about how I spent Christmas of 2016 in Japan with most host family. Japanese Christmas is nothing like Christmas in America or in Hawaii. First of all, the whole holiday is mostly for couples and the gift exchanging thing is not big at all. Second, the main attractions of Christmas in Japan are the Christmas light displays that pop up everywhere in every major mall, called “illuminations,” the KFC chicken, and Christmas cake. For some reason when Christmas was brought over into Japan they somehow got it in their minds that KFC and cake were Christmas must-haves. I’m sure KFC and cake companies had something to do with it. Anyways, it’s all good because then I got to experience something different.
This was the first time in my 20 years of being alive that I was not spending Christmas at home with my family. Honestly it was really tough to be away from home at this time but thanks to technology and the time difference, I got to experience Christmas twice with both my host family and my own family back in Hawaii.
I learned a lot of different things about the Japanese way of Christmas through spending it with my host family. In America we usually leave all of our presents under our American-sized Christmas trees. In Japan, not only will they usually not have a tree but also they don’t seem to leave the gifts underneath the tree. I can’t say for all families but for my host family the children only received one gift each from Santa and not anything from their parents. Japanese Santa then leaves this present on their beds near their feet for them to find when they wake up. My mom and grandma also sent gifts from home so my host family really got to experience either a Hawaii Christmas or a Hayashi Family christmas.
Since I was spending Christmas with them I shared with them about how we usually do Christmas back home. I left my gifts for them under the tree, and got them to leave out a cookie and milk for Santa. It was really funny because my host mom actually asked me how much of the treats does Santa eat. Our Santa in Hawaii just took a few bites and a few sips to leave some evidence, but upon second thought I realized that Japanese Santa probably wouldn’t waste food so probably nothing would be left. For us at home we would leave our notes to Santa and then the next morning we would have a response. My host parents also did that for their kids, going so far as to google how to write in cursive. The only thing was that the kids couldn’t read cursive so they quickly lost interest. Poor parents.
Since Christmas isn’t that big of a thing in Japan, it was not strange at all that on the same day there was a mochitsuki–mochi pounding event for the new years on the same day. So after the kids opened their presents and then we ate breakfast, we headed downstairs to take part in the new year’s tradition of pounding mochi. Ironically, I think that if you compared Hawaii with Tokyo, there would be a higher percentage of families who are doing real mochi pounding in Hawaii. In Japan most people wouldn’t have the space for the usu (mortar) and kine (the thing used to pound the mochigome). It is also probably something too expensive to have for a small one-generation family especially when it’s only used once a year. I believe that those families that want to eat mochi will either buy store made ones, or they would will buy an electric mochi maker. It kind of looks like a rice cooker but it makes mochi.
After the kids got tired of being outside then we went back to the house. The kids just played around with their gifts from Santa and I continued packing since I would be leaving my host family after 2 more days. When it got closer to the evening my host mom’s sister’s family came over for dinner. They have 2 children as well, a girl and a boy. Their last name is also Hayashi which was a coincidence but not surprising since Hayashi is such a common name.
After dinner was all prepared and ready we sat down and began to eat. I thought it was funny that we were eating KFC and pizza on Christmas but I was there to experience a Japanese Christmas so I didn’t say anything. I was really grateful that my host family allowed me to stay at their house longer than was specified by the study abroad program and for letting me join their family Christmas get together. I had a great time and I really appreciated that I still got to spend Christmas with family.
As always, thanks for reading! My next post will be about sightseeing in Oyama after I left my host family’s house and began my one-week stay at my relatives place in Tochigi.