Thursday, December 20, 2007

Hoppin' Holiday Season In the Village

A flurry of snow and activities has kept us busy this holiday season. Check out some of the highlights. We here at juneautojapan think every blog post should start with an adorable Nova photo.

Christmas in Japan appears to center around the more commercial aspects of the season. I've yet to hear how JC fits into the whole Christmas theme. I for one appreciate the fact that decorations and seasonal songs show up before Thanksgiving. I'm all about extending the holidays for as long as possible. Fa-la-la-la-, la-la-la-LAAAA!!!!
Hot chocolate after the following snow man making extravaganza. Super-fine powder snow, great for walking and skiing in, not so great for snowperson making.
Did you know that in Japan "yukidaruma" consist of two body segments, not three like their shapely western cousins?
Mount Fuji with personality.
Shawn wins first prize for "genki-ness" during the cotton ball on a spoon relay race.
Just after I took this Ruyua broke into tears over his white elephant gift..... he was one pass away from getting the dino jigsaw puzzle and ended up with this Santa headband instead. Oh, the devastation in those eyes!
The elementary school puts kids into table groups which consist of members from all grade levels. Table group number 4 took the prize for both the Christmas tree treasure hunt and the snowman making contest.....Mister Donut (Japan's Duncan equivalent) for everyone!
The following few shots are of a dinner sponsored by a mothers group. Six of us moms worked in a freezing cold community hall kitchen while the kids played in the heated gym next door. I have to tell you, it warmed my sometimes cynical heart to spend this evening finely chopping, peeling, talking, laughing and listening with these women. This last month I've turned a corner. I feel like I've found more of a niche here socially. As I panko-battered prawns for the deep frier, one woman asked in Japanese if there were things about living here that "gave me anxiety". I thought about shining it on and saying no, but just the fact that she was comfortable enough to ask was a huge step. So I answered honestly and gave her a couple examples. It was a great evening.Super cute bunny-family apple slices. Like origami, I think making charming animal shapes with food must be a pre-requisite for motherhood in Japan. Nova and our table mates picked from these platters with chocksticks until we were stuffed......cabbage salad, whole marinated hard boiled eggs, panko prawns, chicken, and more. For dessert, strawberry short cake. Heavy whipping cream can't be found locally though we're surrounded by dairy farms. A liter of cream has to be ordered via Internet and costs 1200 yen, nearly $12!
I wish so much this would have turned out less blurry.... this woman patiently showed me how to cut mini hot dogs so that when you throw them into a pan of oil they spring into adorable octopus, squid and crab shapes. I was so amazed with this.... I think they thought I was crazy for making such a big deal about it but come on.... that's just too fun!
Shawn, I mean Santa-sensei, made an appearance at the Komu to pass out goodies and do a photo shoot during his pre-Christmas promotional tour. FYI: Christmas is NOT one of Shawn's favorite holidays, which made this an even more special event. :)
The Komu.... an daunting subject to blog because it's almost indescribably awesome. I'll try to sum it up as best I can. The Komu, is a gigantic circular pavilion in the center of town filled with intricately and masterfully crafted wooden toys and play structures. It is free to the public on weekdays. It smells deliciously of sweet wood polish and is immaculately clean and bright with natural light. Dreamy tinkling music echoes through 6 themed rooms. It is enjoyed by young and old. You'll just have to come and see for yourself. Till then, here's a little preview that hardly does it justice.....
A giant wooden horse.
A hide and seeker's paradise with a long curving slide.....
that ends in a vat of a thousand wooden eggs. Let's just say the Komu is like Willy Wonka's chocolate factory..... just switch out all the candy with beautiful highly polished wood. Doing my part to celebrate Japan's National Library Day by reading George W Bush's favorite childhood classic, The Very Hungry Caterpillar to a roomful of kids. This photo brings back painful high school drama-club memories..... what I won't do for the blog!
Everyone held their breath as Shawn balanced not 20, not 30, but 40 indoor slippers across the gym floor at the Elementary school open-house relay! Impressive considering these adult sized slippers barely fit on one of his hands.