One of the questions I so often field from friends and family members back home is whether or not Japan celebrates certain holidays. “Do your students celebrate Halloween?” “Do people in Japan celebrate Christmas?” Most of the time, the answer to that question, regardless of the holiday, is “Yes, but a little bit differently.” (Except for days like the Fourth of July. Because, really, why would Japan celebrate the day that America was founded?)
One would think that Japan wouldn’t have Thanksgiving. Last time I checked, no Europeans invaded Japan and then gave the indigenous people smallpox. But surprise! Japan has Thanksgiving. Or rather, it has “Labor Thanksgiving Day.” Basically, it’s just a general public holiday day in late November, and I’m not really sure why Japan even celebrates it. I’ve never heard of anyone doing anything special to celebrate it.
It shouldn’t really come as any surprise that I love Thanksgiving. An autumn holiday centered around eating massive amounts of food, including pumpkin pie?! Sign me up.
This year, the JETs of Aomori-shi had their own potluck Thanksgiving dinner, complete with all the classic fixings. Turkey, cranberry sauce, (three kinds of) mashed potatoes, stuffing, gravy. pumpkin pie, pecan pie…and then some not so traditional fare, like a French-influenced pork spread. That came from our city’s resident chef. My own contribution was a pretty sizeable pot of Parmesan mashed potatoes. It felt especially cozy this year, because one of the Japanese women who is good friends with the JETs in the city has a massive, Western-style house, and she generously allowed us to invade it for dinner. Stepping into this house feels like stepping into an American home (though with a few Japanese touches, like a tatami mat room). It truly felt like a home away from home.
When it comes to Thanksgiving, I adopt the following mentality. “The meal is not over when I’m full. The meal is over when I hate myself.” And that definitely rang true this year. I stuffed myself to the point of bursting, when it actively hurt to take deep breaths. But it was Thanksgiving! It’s not a successful meal if you’re not nursing a third trimester food baby by the end, right?
Between all of the delicious food, general bonding time (Catchphrase, a personal Brueckner family favorite, made an appearance), and great company, Thanksgiving was an all-around hit. Plus, we even had so many leftovers that those of us who brought food got leftovers to take home!
As sad as I was to miss Thanksgiving with my family in America for the second year in a row, I was happy to spend it with my makeshift JET family in Aomori. Of course, I’m incredibly thankful that I have friends and family that support me, even if I’m seven thousand miles away. I know that sometimes it’s hard for people on both sides of that distance. And I’m also thankful that I have people and experiences in Aomori that make it an actual home for me, not just I place I live in.