Dropped down in DC for Christmas! Whoop whoop!
I’m so glad I found a last minute ticket to see my favorite non-Japanese family! The girls had grown so much. K talks more than ever, and you know how entertaining that is. I actually have a list of funny quotes. Little J is just starting to walk around and she loves to make funny faces. They sure know how to make Auntie Kaori laugh and laugh and laugh 😉
Waking up on Christmas morning and opening presents. Boy, I hadn’t done this in YEARS. Much more exciting than my usual morning commute to work, which I would have been doing in Japan, that’s for sure. We had tons of fun oohing and ahhing over all the presents. I even found myself a present under the Christmas tree (it’s already hanging on my wall)!
Then we had yummy pancakes and stayed in PJs all day. Best. Christmas. Ever.
Here are some jolly photos:
Happy Thanksgiving (to those who celebrate Thanksgiving)!!!
This is definitely one of those holidays that will probably never come into Japan, despite this country’s love for importing holidays, such as Halloween and Easter. For one, Japan never had any Native Americans that taught the pilgrims, that never came to Japan, how to grow corn and sat down together for a meal after a good harvest season. But more importantly, it’s almost impossible to roast a whole turkey in Japan’s tiny microwave ovens.
But I’v always loved this holiday from my childhood days growing up in Michigan and since my sister was heading over to my place for the weekend, I invited the girls over for an early Thanksgiving dinner, sans the turkey.
I was up and early, running back and forth to the supermarket, cooking and baking my butt off. It’s always fun putting a dinner together for family and friends, I get pretty excited about things like this. At the same time, I often get in over my head with ideas too difficult to execute by myself. This year though, I was surprisingly level headed throughout the whole process and had a great time in the kitchen, even though it was just me, my oven and reruns of Sherlock in the back ground.
The menu consisted of apple cranberry walnut salad, pumpkin soup, blooming onion bread, mashed potatoes, broccoli and macaroni casserole, green bean avocado fried rice, spinach balls, and bread stuffing. For dessert, there was pumpkin pie and apple pie, which I baked the day before.
When everyone came over, they helped set the table and then (after a quick photo session of the food, hehe) we all dug in! It was all SO GOOD!
I’ve learned that get-togethers like this are not really about the food. I mean, it kind of is…but it’s not. We could have had conbini bentos and it still would have tasted good, although not as Thanksgiving-y. For me, what makes the difference is that we were all enjoying this meal together. I personally miss my family the most around the holidays, so it was nice to have a full house (because my apartment is tiny, you know?) filled with chatter and laughter over dinner. The fact that we were all there enjoying the meal together is definitely what made it delicious!
I hope you’re enjoying time with friends and family this holiday season, too! x
You don’t know how happy I was when I saw that Ru had written about Konno Hachimangu (金王八幡宮) in her recent post. It reminded me that I had a few photos of the same shrine from the end of the year so I thought I’d just let you go to her post to learn about this lovely shrine. You know I love reading about something a hundred times more than writing about it. (It has a surprising connection to mathematics, which I did not know!)
Because it was the end of the year, they had the Chi-no-wa (茅の輪) set up. It is a large ring, used as part of the purification ritual called Oh-harai (大祓い) to get rid of all the bad luck in the past year.
It was my first time seeing an actual chi-no-wa so I had to read the instructions. You start by walking through the ring, then go around the left and walk through again, then go around to the right and walk through for the final time. (You can see the instructions in the photo below.)
I think it had instant results because I picked an omikuji (おみくじ) and I got dai-kichi (大吉), the best one! Hurrah!
Here are some photos (and read about the shrine here):
Ever since I started living alone, I’ve been going home to my parent’s place for the new years holiday. First it was Akita, then Osaka, and now Imabari. I can’t imagine not spending the holidays with family (probably because I don’t have a family of my own yet). So despite the expensive airfare and crazy holiday traffice, I always head home.
But this new years holiday, I decided we should all head down to Okinawa to spend new years with grandma. Because we moved around a lot, I never got the chance to spend vast amounts of time with my grandma after moving away from Okinawa when I was four. I send letters and we talk on the phone…but you know, it’s still nothing compared to actually spending time together.
Last time we were in Okinawa for Golden Week, we were only there together for four days and my baby sister was still in boarding school and couldn’t be there. But now that my parents are retired, they’re a lot more flexible with their schedule, so I thought what better time than now for a family trip to Okinawa? Especially when this years new years holiday gave us nine consecutive days off of work?
It ended up being the best idea ever.
The warmer weather was just what everyone needed, we got to catch up with old friends and family, and best of all, my grandma kept on telling me how happy she was to have everyone there for the holidays!
Made me so happy.
One of the things my grandma and I were excited about leading up to this trip was hatsuhinode, the first light of the year. And despite the weather forecast for a cloudy day, I kept my hopes up that we would be able to see a peak of the first sunrise together.
My uncle’s family drove down to see the sunrise with us. We all gathered (this may wound weird…) at my grandpa’s grave, because it has a really great view of the sea facing east. You’ll see that Okinawan graves are much larger than the one’s in mainland Japan. We waited in the cold for quite sometime as large clouds blocked the sunrise. But because it was so windy, it blew the clouds away and we were soon basking in the warm rays of this year’s first sunrise!
For me, it was the best way to welcome the new year.
Here are some photos: