Monday, January 02, 2006

Christmas in Tokyo

Apologies to my (cough) many devoted readers, for the long interval between posts. I've been uncharacteristically busy these past few weeks. But now the Winter Vacation is upon me, with almost two weeks with no work, and I finally have some time to get back to posting. Incidentally, I've also updated my flickr page, so if you want to see some cool pics from Tokyo, check it out.

Anyhow, I've recently finished celebrating my first Tokyo Christmas, and it was, er, somewhat surreal. Fun, but occasionally odd. You can see a little bit of why if you check out the aforementioned flickr page. But, well, here's what I did for Christmas. First, I accompanied my girlfriend to Roppongi (the better part, where the art galleries are, not the infamous part where all the drug-dealers and hookers are) and had a look around an exhibiton of Vivienne Westwood's many interesting designs (including a sweatshirt repurposed as an evening gown.) Westwood, as you may know and I certainly didn't before Sunday, got her start in London's punk scene and from there moved on to the world of high fashion. After this, we adjourned to a cafe on the same floor of the building - namely, the 52nd - and watched the light come out over Tokyo. First time I've done so from such a height ... it's quite a sight.

After this, we met with some of her friends and went to the Millenario, an annual Christmas lights festival held in the Maranouchi district of Tokyo, normally not so crowded but for this event so packed with people that, for most of the time, we crept forward in a sort of Night-of-the-Living-Dead shuffle. The lights were, I thought, quite well done - my girlfriend disagreed, claiming that last year's had been more impressive - but they were of an odd design; said oddness later explained by the fact that this year's designer was a Muslim ... or maybe not ... I can't find any referrences to his being Islamic, though he is Italian, and I have a feeling that my notion of his being Islamic might have arisen due to language barrier issues. I'm leaving the issue open, but if it's true, well, I can only say this: only in Japan would people fail to see the humor in a Muslim designing Christmas lights.

So, after that, it was off to an Izakaya (which is sort of like a pub.) There, we ate a lot, and drank too much, as ones does at Izakayas (amongst the food we ate was raw chicken, which was new to me: I've had sushi and sashimi before, but raw chicken struck me as dangerous. Quite good, though, when suitably soaked in soy sauce and wasabe.) As always when out with Japanese people, it was an excellent chance to practice my Japanese ... by which I mean, my girlfriend (who speaks pretty good English) translated her friend's questions for me; I would then ask my girlfriend for a word or two, and then use it to compose my reply in broken Japanese.

So, that was my Tokyo Christmas ... about as different as one could possibly imagine from my accustomed ritual of gigantic meals and endless present-opening. But Christmas is different here: where in Western countries it's a family holiday, in Japan, it's basically a sort of Valentine's Day.

Oh, and the plastic Christmas tree that my room-mates found in our closet, some weeks ago? Still in the closet. You can walk in our house and never even know that 'tis the season....

Correction: Turns out the the designer was Italian, not Islamic ... but, the original designer was a Muslim. That was several months ago, though; the organizers must have changed their minds, or the original designer became unavailable.

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