Everyone has been asking me if we celebrated Thanksgiving this year. I moved to Japan under the pretense that I was leaving behind those kind of American traditions. I didn’t want to do anything at all, and even if I did, turkey is impossible to find here and we don’t have an oven (still haven’t gotten used to that). But the truth was, come Thanksgiving Day in America (Friday for us), Kenny and I were homesick for our families and all the delicious food they got to eat. The day before (Thanksgiving for us, Wednesday for all of you), we had leftover miso soup. Good, but not turkey.
The next day we looked through Facebook at all of our friends’ family photos and huge dinners. We were very jealous, but we couldn’t even spend that evening together. About a week ago, the nurse at one of the schools Kenny teaches at, had a heart attack and tragically died. Kenny went to her funeral, and not knowing if it was appropriate for me to go or not, I stayed behind.
This was a traditional Japanese funeral. For more information regarding what that ceremony looks like, I highly recommend you watch Departures, a fantastic movie that won Best Foreign Film a few years ago. To be honest, I’m a little jealous I wasn’t there. I did an internship at a hospice last year for my senior thesis and it would have been very interesting to learn about Japanese rituals surrounding death. Kenny told me when he got home about 300-400 people were there, so I probably could’ve gone, too.
Kenny didn’t come back empty-handed. The custom at a Japanese funeral is to give cash. Kenny gave 3000en (about $30), the standard amount for a coworker. In return, the gift-giver gets their own gift usually equal to about a fourth or half the amount given. We got waffle cookies, jam, and tea. Like all random foods in Japan, they were very good. The box of goodies came wrapped and in a nice bag, like gifts here always do.
There was also a beautiful card, and salt to purity the body with (which Kenny didn’t end up using as he had no idea how).
Kenny said he needed a pick me up when he was on his way home, so he stopped at the convenience store across the street and bought us both some chocolate. Then we celebrated Thanksgiving the only way we could think of: by watching all of the Thanksgiving specials of Friends.
We do love it here. In fact, we love it so much Kenny has renewed his contract. Officially, we will be here until at least August 2015, probably a lot longer. However, we do miss our friends and family. As great as the community has been to us in Japan, around the holidays especially it is a bit isolating.