A Japanese Thanksgiving

Well, I have lived through my first Thanksgiving in Japan! I really missed my family, of course. I have so many great memories of Thanksgiving at my grandmother’s house: chatting with relatives during the before-dinner appetizers, my dad carving the huge, golden-brown turkey, my mom’s perfectly sweet and flaky pecan pie, the after-dinner walk down a quiet country road. Oh, and of course the turkey sandwiches for supper!

However, this year I was able to make some new memories, and I’m really grateful for the friends that I have here, which makes transitioning to a new country so much easier. This year, American Thanksgiving just so happened to fall on the exact same day as Japan’s Labor Thanksgiving Day, a national holiday. So we got the day off! “Labor Thanksgiving Day” here in Japan is not really the same as our Thanksgiving; you can read more about the similarities and differences here, if you want to.

In any case, we Americans decided to take advantage of our day off and create our own Thanksgiving celebration! We invited some of our Japanese friends, and all 20+ of us crowded into our team leader’s three-room apartment.

It was an eclectic dinner, to say the least. No turkey – because they’re not commonly sold here, and our teensy-weensy ovens aren’t very accommodating to roasting large birds. However, one of my teammates did bake a glazed ham that was quite tasty. We also bought Kentucky Fried Chicken from the local KFC joint. We did our best to replicate some American dishes with the ingredients available to us: green bean casserole, sweet potato casserole (almost as good as yours, Aunt Pat!), and stuffing muffins were all on the menu. Oh yes, and we did have cranberry sauce, lovingly transported from America by our training coordinator who was here on a visit! Dessert was apple crisp, cookies and squares, and peanut butter buckeyes, among other things. I definitely missed some of my favorite traditional Thanksgiving food, but I found plenty of delicious new items to satisfy my appetite.

Oh – and just when we thought we were full – one of our Japanese guests decided to pull out her takoyaki maker! She had brought the things to make takoyaki (a baked batter in a ball shape with chunks of octopus in it), but decided not to when she saw all the food. However, her preschool-aged son was upset because we didn’t have any takoyaki, so she decided to make it after all! I’m not a huge takoyaki fan myself, but after she and some of the other guests made the regular octopus balls they ended up making the same dough balls with marshmallow and chocolate instead of the octopus! Kind of like a Japanese s’more…it was delicious!

Here are some photos of the great feast. The star of the show (along with the ham, of course) was good old KFC:

One of our team member’s specialties: stuffing muffins, made with stuffing, dried cranberries, celery, and cheese.

Some sort of smiley sushi (or something), brought by one of our Japanese friends:

Takoyaki in the process of being made. I’d never seen it done before, so I was glad to have the chance to observe it. The batter is poured into the pan, which has special round indentations. One’s choice of fillings are put in as well. Once the batter has cooked on one side, each little ball of dough is flipped over using a thin stick.

My personal favorite – the chocolate and marshmallow balls! I shot a video of this one:

Well, that was my Thanksgiving – not quite like the ones at home, but still a pretty good one. I missed seeing my loved ones, but I am thankful for this new opportunity that God has given me, and for the many wonderful people that I’ve been able to get to know. Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

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