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25 Things To Know about Christmas in Japan

To be honest, I wasn’t sure where to begin with a "Christmas in Japan" blog. Other people have written about Christmas in Japan extensively, and with more explanation and attention to detail than I have the bandwidth for. 
 I’ve tried to break down my holiday season in Japan experience into 25 key points, facts, and observations that will hopefully go down a lot easier than basashi. 




1. They don’t have the usual holiday staples. 
 This depends on your holiday staple foods, and the extent to which you’re willing to get them. Some are easier to track down than others, and others will require you to do a little holiday Macguyver-ing.




2. They don't have turkey. 
 Okay, this is sort of a lie. You can get turkey, but it’s not as easy as running to H-E-B and picking one up from the freezer section. You can find them at Costco, or you can order them online, but as you’d expect they’re very expensive. 



I went to a “Thanksgiving” party hosted by a JTE (Japanese Teacher of En…

The Pink Sweater and the Subtle Art of Shade

“I like your Halloween costume, Rachel-sensei! Very colorful, ne?” A well-meaning teacher says to me, upon seeing my outfit.

Yes, today I’m teaching a lesson on Halloween traditions in America. No, I’m not wearing a costume.

Here’s a breakdown of my outfit: black tights, already starting to run because they weren’t made to accommodate American thighs. Red skirt, a sale item from UNIQLO. Hair down, modestly arranged into a half-updo. And a hand-stitched shirt I bought in Mexico. If you’ve ever been on a cruise I guarantee you’ve seen these shirts, made of cotton or linen with bouquets of colorful flowers hand-stitched around the wide neck. These shirts come in lots of different styles, depending on the region of Mexico where they’re made, and they’re a popular souvenir for tourists. Importantly, they’re not a Halloween costume.

But more importantly, I know this teacher means no harm, so I shrug it off and go on with my day.

I’ve never felt more scrutinized about my looks than since I …

The License Plate and the Great Divide (Or: How I Survived the Japanese Interrogation Room)

There’s a ravine between everyone and me, and it’s called the Japanese language.

As much as I tried to study back in the states, it’s simply not enough. I knew, going into this, it wasn’t enough, but because the organization which hired me said Japanese language proficiency wasn’t a requirement when I first applied for this role, I didn’t give it much consideration.

Let me repeat: Japanese language proficiency is not a requirement of my job. For whatever reason.
Even now I can get around the ravine in small ways, using hand gestures, the minimal Japanese I know. But it’s still difficult.
In Houston I listened to a fellow teacher, not knowing that my proficiency with the language was so low, complaining loudly about anyone who didn’t have JLPT certification going into the teaching program.
“If you don’t know Japanese, you’re probably a piece of shit,” she said with a laugh, followed by laughs of agreement from other teachers who had similarly-high language certification.