Last year, I wrote that it's all pretty much over in Japan by the time Christmas day hits. I figured that I'd go out and walk around to see if there was much of a difference on Christmas Eve. Also, this year we didn't really have anything special on hand for dinner and I wanted to see if there was anything for sale locally which might fit the bill.
Coincidentally, December 24 this year was a national holiday (
The weather yesterday was a little cold and very windy, but quite sunny. It wasn't a bad day at all, but most of the faces I saw while out shopping looked pretty glum. I guess the wind, which was strong enough to shake parked bicycles into new positions, may have been a factor in that as it whipped across exposed hands and faces. Since it was a holiday, I also saw more people out and about in casual clothes. The polished and business-suited masses have a more rundown look when they walk about in jeans and casual jackets. The general atmosphere was not very festive or encouraging.
A forlorn-looking Christmas cake stand outside the local "99" shop. While 990 yen cakes weigh down the left side, cheap Christmas-themed treats occupy the right.
There were fewer tables sitting outside of businesses selling Christmas cakes than I would have expected and none of them were actually manned. In business districts (rather than more residential areas like where we live), I'm sure they were outside their establishments in their Santa hats enduring the cold and watching the dead ginkgo leaves blow around, but they didn't bother in my neck of the woods. Given the reluctant food traffic, they probably wouldn't have done enough business to justify their facial wind burns.
I checked out some local supermarkets and was surprised to find that they had whole chickens on sale with labels noting that they were for Christmas meals. Since it is uncommon to find whole chickens in most places, that was a good sign in and of itself. Unfortunately, there were only two varieties on hand. One was a very small whole chicken, conveniently packed with two frilly aluminum leg cuffs, that looked about the size of a pigeon with a glandular problem. It was ¥1000 ($8.75) for about 1 kg. (2.2lbs.) The other was larger (2 kg.) but the price seemed to have ballooned with its size. It was ¥2800 ($24.50) and I couldn't justify that much money for that amount of food and gave it a pass (though I did pick it up a few times and think long and hard about it).
Despite the expensive chickens, Christmas cakes, and some artificial tress here and there in front of businesses, there was the omnipresent Christmas muzak. Though the surroundings weren't as lush or opulent as you'd find back home, it wasn't the absence of overly done decorations which undermined my Christmas spirit, it was the lack of the energy you feel around this time of year back home. There's excitement in the air back home. There's casual interest in Japan with people idly picking over the goods on hand trying to approximate what they think is the way to celebrate. Given that Christmas isn't even a real holiday in Japan, that's no surprise, but it can leave one feeling a little homesick at this time of year.