I couldn’t forget my first Christmas in Japan.
I arrived there as a young student in October 1996 not knowing the language, culture or traditions. The first weeks at school were hectic, almost unbearable then a surprise field trip to Kyoto came. My very first Christmas in Japan, in the historic city of Kyoto!
The city was spectacular and Christmas-sy with beautiful trees with grand illuminations. I imagined huge fireworks at the strike of midnight because having previously lived in a country where Christmas season is big, festive and fireworks lighting up the sky at midnight on Christmas eve, I thought it was always like that everywhere. And, this is Japan.
I expected much too much.
I opened my hotel room curtain at 11:45 pm only to see the streets looking dull with only a few young couples holding hands and a man trudging across holding a sake* cup to keep him warm that cold night.
My anticipation heightened.
Snow fell on my frosty hotel window at midnight, trees rustled outside with the cold winter wind. I must be wrong. This can’t be! 12:05 am. Except for the dancing lights reflected in the snow covered ground, the place stood still. The thought quickly crept up on me: nothing happens in Japan on Christmas night!
I wasn’t ready for this! Had I known!
When the next December rolled in, I was ready with a plane ticket that would take me home to the Philippines. The bright lights just wouldn’t suffice.
*sake is Japanese traditional rice wine. They can be bought in disposable glass cups in convenient stores all over Japan. Popular during winter.