Saturday, December 24, 2011


Our tiny Christmas tree~

 It's been very Christmas-y around here lately! I purposefully booked our social calendars full of exciting things, so I wouldn't have time to be down about being away from home. I was just looking over my planner and realized that we've done 5 Christmas events this month!

  • Christmas Caroling w/ local JETs
  • Secret Santa Party w/ local JETs
  • International Association Christmas Party
  • Christmas Cocktail Party - Charity Event
  • Christmas Party with special needs children

 Yesterday I also decorated adorable Christmas cakes with my friend Yuki! Her family owns a local bakery not too far from here. I've been interested in the secrets of how Japanese make their sweets so darn cute! It's definitely more difficult than it looks. I honestly didn't do a fantastic job at spreading the icing evenly, but I made up for it with texturizing and decorations. Christmas cakes are also quite popular here! People are always shocked when I tell them that it's not a typical American dessert for the holidays. Even so, I love sweets so I'm more than thrilled about this tradition.

All in all, I'm pretty happy with how this month has been going, even if it was a bit rough financially since I had to fund snow tires and the business trip to Kyoto (which I won't be reimbursed for until January). After the Christmas holidays, we're heading down to Osaka on the 26th for a few days! Matt and I have never been, so some city life should be quite refreshing.

Right, so Thursday evening was my Bonenkai. This is similar to the enkai I attended after Sports Day, but more formal since it's an end-of-the-year party with co-workers. I attended the Bonenkai of my base JHS since I'm familiar with the entire staff, and a handful of them speak English. I was also invited to the one with my visit JHS, but these things tend to be pretty pricey so I could only do one.

( Click the link below to read the rest! )

This is best described in bullet points, I think...
  • Happy Hour doesn't exist in Japan. Salaried workers aren't excited when 5:00 rolls around because they'll be staying at work for at least another 2-3 hours, if not more. (See this article on Japanese work ethic as a side-note) In addition, driving after consuming ANY alcohol is illegal and met with strict consequences, even worse if you're a public servant or a foreigner. 
My own personal Happy Hour.
  • I miss Happy Hour. I might've had a little to drink before my co-workers picked me up :)
  • While teachers consuming alcohol in America is a taboo subject, everyone's extremely open about it here. As stressed salaried workers and dutiful public servants, alcohol is a natural form of release amongst any office environment. That's something I like very much about this country -- my profession is held in a higher regard.
  • Once at our destination and gathered together in our private room, we drew slips of paper printed with different Kanji to determine where we would sit. Thankfully, I was sitting next to my young JTE.

Bonenkai Feast!!! This wasn't even all the food.
  • Most Japanese seem to drive beer, sake, or wine. They think "CHU-HAI" is the solution for a girly drink (at a hilariously weak 2-3% alcohol content). Cocktails are available at some establishments, but not most, especially traditional restaurants. My JTE offered me CHU-HAI while we were pouring drinks to get ready for the kampai (toast). Have more faith in me, Sir.
  • Kocho-sensei was wearing only a yukata because he had just taken a dip in the onsen. And well, he's Kocho-sensei.

It was a great night overall! Everyone got to relax, converse, eat fine food, and enjoy drinks (I ended up going with some white wine). Like most Japanese parties, we played BINGO. People had the option to either stay the night at the ryoukan (for another small fortune) or take the shuttle bus home. Most of us ended up taking the bus back, so the ride was enjoyable and I got to catch up with the people I didn't get around to speaking with at the party. In this society, I think it's hard for teachers to get together like this, especially where we are, since the drinking establishments are spread out with very few options for transportation. I appreciated another bonding experience with my co-workers, since I rarely see them outside of school.

Matt and I will be celebrating Christmas Eve with some Japanese friends, and tomorrow having others come over to our place for Christmas Dinner. I'm really looking forward to everything. No matter where you are, it's still Christmas and it feels great to be surrounded by people you love! :)

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