I post this as Thanksgiving nears and I prepare to celebrate my second Thanksgiving in Japan. It is a different experience.
I have many fond memories of family Thanksgiving celebrations. Food, drink and song! For as long as I can remember as kid through adulthood, It was for me always a wonderful family time.
I still relive the year I took my four daughters to New York City for the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade. I was working for ABC and had arranged for us to stay in the Plaza Hotel penthouse suite (of Eloise fame) –– it was leased by ABC –– the night before the parade. We watched the balloons being prepared in Central Park and the next morning, courtesy of NBC friends, had front row seats for the parade. In my mind, a proud father’s best Thanksgiving memory ever!
I have many reasons to be thankful; grateful for so many people who have enriched my life with their love, friendship, and support. For now, I am healthy and happy; life is good and I am living a dream-like adventure in Japan.
However, sentiments about family memories and giving thanks aside, Thanksgiving is a unique American holiday built on a fictional notion of Native Americans and the Pilgrims dining together in peace where the central character is a turkey supported by a pumpkin. For most Americans the holiday is really about food (and football).
Thanksgiving is not celebrated in Japan and turkey is not available in food markets. Therefore, Keiko and I will quietly dine with a food substitute that you also find on Japanese tables on Christmas –– Kentucky Fried Chicken!
That is not a joke. As noted in an earlier post, the Japanese do celebrate Christmas in their unique way. On my first Christmas in Japan some years ago I was surprised to see a box of KFC on the table along with sushi and many other Japanese dishes.
When I asked about it, thinking it may have been purchased for me, I was told “no; it is in place of customary American turkey.” Many Japanese families actually place orders with KFC to insure its available for their Christmas holiday dinner table.
Keiko will need to work and I, without the distraction of NFL football, plan to spend Thanksgiving with a visit to a temple or shrine to reflect on my good fortune. I will miss watching the Macy’s parade but will prepare to hunt for Black Friday sales at the local shopping mall.
I wish you all a very Happy Thanksgiving.
(Speaking of Christmas, stay tuned. We are having the Fujikawa clan for a holiday celebration on December 22 and I will prepare my traditional Italian Feast of the Seven Fishes.)
To learn more about KFC as a Japanese Christmas tradition, click here: How KFC made Christmas all about fried chicken — in Japan