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travel + culture

on the road and what's out there.


Christmas in Nippon

Caitlin Surakitbanharn

Christmas is always a time for family and traditions - but this year was a little different, as we spent the holiday abroad and away from our families.  this year it was new family and new traditions - and turns was just as much fun, if not more so, than the past!

this was our first Christmas in Japan, obviously, and our first Christmas together, and we really didn't have much a game plan, but the day ended up being one of the best yet!

we slept in late, got a late start, and FaceTimed with my sister and my dad while they celebrated Christmas Eve, and then we embarked on the Japanese tradition of fried chicken for Christmas!  this is a real thing - apparently 1 in 3 Japanese adults eats KFC/Fried Chicken on Christmas each year (side note: Christmas is not a bank holiday here.  everyone was out and about and at work on Christmas, seeing as how less than 1% of the population is Christian it's really not celebrated).  there is allegedly some story from the 70's as to why the Japanese eat KFC on Christmas, which Jao has read up on, but the moral of the story is....we were determined to eat KFC on Christmas!

so we got on our bikes (bike gang!) and rode up to Denenchofu, a very affluent suburb of Tokyo with a very fancy KFC, which was about a 40 minute ride through Yokohama and neighboring 'hoods.

bike gang - we stopped at Lawson to get some onigiri and hot tea before we set off on our bike journey.

stopped on the bridge into Denenchofu.

we made it to KFC, we got BBQ chicken, fries, cole slaw, and hot tea, and it was awesome.

after our KFC experience, we took a scenic bike ride home, took a nap (rough life), and then we listened to Michael Buble Christmas music and cooked our own Christmas dinner together - rice bowls with scrambled egg, pork, veggies, and miso soup!

this is our little living room with our kotatsu table, fridge, microwave, and SICK new chairs that we just got over the weekend from nitori.  you can't really see them, but its what i'm kneeling on, and they changed our lives!

after dinner, we bundled up and went into Roppongi to see the Illumination.  we weren't really sure what to expect, because we saw one of the Illuminations in Ebisu the day before and our reaction to it was "'s Christmas lights?" but the Japanese go APE SHIT for the Illuminations, and apparently the one at Tokyo Midtown in Roppongi is one of the best, so we decided to be romantic and go check it out and hold hands and be festive and stuff.  it was easily one of the weirdest experiences we've had here so far.  there were tens of thousands of people there, we were all being herded through a maze of trees, all which led to the main attraction....

Jao trying to be like everyone else and take pictures of totally normal christmas lights on trees... (see the hoard of people we're behind)

but after about 30 minutes, we arrived at the main attraction...which was...a pit of'll see.

.....and no seriously, they go APE SHIT for these Illuminations.  we were just kind of....confused.  but we enjoyed the experience nonetheless!  we came home, skyped with our families, and went to bed.

we continued our Christmas today, since our families were still celebrating, and we went to the Mandarin Oriental in Tokyo for a Michelin Starred meal at Signature on the 37th floor.  we had an incredible 4 course meal complimented by UNBELIEVABLY amazing service (the service in japan is great everywhere but the service here was just on the next level).  they even had warm, gooey rice bread for me.
we had such a good time!

the main course.

the soup course.

Jao's dessert - some kind of ice cream creation with pistachio cream on a cookie.

my dessert - chocolate mousse with raspberry gelee.  

we finished our meal off with an amazing cappuccino and great petit fours, and then walked/shopped around Ginza.  perfect end to our first unconventional holiday in Nippon.

hope you guys all had a great holiday!
love from the other side!