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Noel in Nagasaki How to feel festive when you’re far from home


nagazasshi Volume 8 Issue 3 November/December 2015

Editor-in-chief Jennifer Edwards

Editor Rosie Fordham

Layout and Design Laurel Williams

Assistant Editor Lorna Hanson

Public Relations Conor Hughes

Copy Editor Max Epstein

Treasurer Karl Po

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irthdays, Christmases, New Years’ Eves – I believe that we measure out our lives not, as TS Eliot would have it, with coffee spoons, but instead with Hallmark Gift Cards. Be it blowing out candles on your birthday cake, or that midnight kiss on New Year’s Eve – these annual recurrences are a natural opportunity for reflection. Added to this, of course, is the weight of cultural expectations around such events, not to mention our own personal traditions. These things considered, it’s easy to understand how people who are spending the holidays away from their family or loved ones may feel a little glum. Of course, there’s also a great potential for freedom here – having the opportunity to break with your usual holiday traditions.

Andrew Morris Matthew Nelson

So, it’s for both readers who wish to do so, as well the readers who are keen to maintain their festive traditions, that we have created this – our holiday issue. Want to travel? Check out our tales of national and international festive exploits (p. 8) to ignite your wanderlust. Staying in Nagasaki? Check out the places you can go (p. 4) and things you can do (p. 6) over the holiday season.

www.nagazasshi.com

Happy reading, and happy holidays!

Contributors Rosie Fordham Karl Po Lorna Hanson Jessica Richard Naomi Jenkins Will Tiley Sophie Midgely James Vaughan Priscilla Westra

Founders

Cover Photo testing out my new lens flickr.com/pannoniusrex

Jennifer Edwards, Editor-in-chief


Contents

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Our Pick: Holiday Events

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Noel in Nagasaki

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Christmas Out of Context

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Japanese Christmas Cake Culture

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Kanji of the Month

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Festive things to do in Nagasaki this winter

Holidays away from home? Find your festive cheer

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Tales of unexpected Christmases around the world

Get a taste of a truly multicultural creation

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Photo credits (top to bottom): Illuminations, Huis Ten Bosch Karl Po; Cinnamon straw flickr.com/ darwinbell; Christmas set, Kentucky Fried Chicken Jessica Richard; Christmas cake flickr.com/skrb

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Our Pick: Holiday Events

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ooking for festive ways to fill your days over the holiday season? The Nagazasshi has teamed up with the Nagasaki Prefecture Convention and Tourism Association to bring you the prefecture’s best events this winter. Get out your diaries and start scribbling!

Incredible Illuminations

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For many people, it’s just not festive without Christmas lights. Japan takes it to the next level come winter with amazing illuminations as far as the eye can see. Nagasaki is no different – from late October until December 27th, when night falls, you can enjoy beautiful displays of illuminations across the city at locations including: Dejima, Glover Garden, Nagasaki Prefectural Art Museum, Oura Church, and Nagasaki Seaside Park.

If you want to take your love for illuminations to the next level, head to Netherlands-themed amusement park Huis Ten Bosch. At night, this little Holland in Sasebo transforms into the “Kingdom of Light,” boasting over 13 million light bulbs. A stunning 66 meter high “Waterfall of Light” is the newest addition to the spectacle. If you’re more interested in New Year’s Eve fireworks than Christmas lights, Huis Ten Bosch will host one of Japan’s largest countdown firework displays to mark the passage into the New Year. 8 visit-nagasaki.com/spots/detail/116 Christmassy Carols and Churches Nagasaki’s Christian past means if you want to incorporate a visit to a church in your holiday plans, you have plenty of options. Nishizaka Church, by the historical Twenty-Six Martyrs Museum and Monument, will offer midnight mass on Christmas Eve in a mix of English and Japanese. Mass begins at 9 a.m. and 11 a.m. (Japanese) and 12:30 p.m. (English) on Christmas day. 8 visit-nagasaki.com/spots/detail/208 For something truly special, head to Shin-Kamigoto December 8th – 13th for their Church Week. Enjoy the lovely holiday atmosphere of the island’s famous and historic churches! Festivities include illumi-

November/December 2015 | nagazasshi


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nation displays, choir and orchestral performances, as well as decorative displays within the churches themselves.

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Get Festive at Glover Garden

As it draws nearer to Christmas, Glover Garden in Nagasaki city will ramp up the holiday spirit with their Winter Festival. Between December 22nd – 25th (until around 9 p.m.), visitors can see a new side to the park as it is illuminated both in electric lights, and romantic candles – as well as enjoy seasonal refreshments.

What’s more, between the 22nd – 24th, Glover Garden will host a two-stage concert starting from 6:30 p.m. The Winter Festival encompasses a whole host of events, so it’s well worth checking out! 8 glover-garden.jp/winter_festival.html

Out of the Ordinary

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If it will take a little more than illuminations to get you in the spirit – why not try something a little different? Sasebo’s Kira Kira Festival, which runs from November 18th to December 25th, features not only the usual illuminations, but also displays, parades, dancing and music galore – as well as festive foods.

For some unexpected holiday cheer, head to the Nagasaki City Penguin Aquarium, from November 28th to December 25th, and see a festive tree display, divers dressed as Santa Claus and a Christmas-themed penguin parade. 8 visit-nagasaki.com/spots/detail/217

Finally, the famed Mariinsky Ballet’s Vaganova Academy of Russian Ballet is coming to Nagasaki’s Brick Hall on January 16, 2016 to stage Tchaikovsky’s The Nutcracker. With songs you know from childhood, you’ll still be feeling festive well into the New Year. It’s the perfect event to see with a friend, or someone special. 8 ktn.co.jp/event

Photo credits (pp. 6 – 7): Illuminations, Huis Ten Bosch Karl Po; Nishizaka Church Priscilla Westra; Glover Garden flickr.com/tanaka_juuyoh; Penguin parade flickr.com/trektrack

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Noel

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Nagasaki

If you want to embrace the holiday season as enthusiastically as you do at home, but are struggling to conjure up any festive cheer in Nagasaki, seasoned celebrators of Christmases in Japan, Naomi Jenkins and Lorna Hanson, are here with their top tips!

1. Lights, blankets, Dejima Wharf! If you’re missing the spectacle of streets filled with lights, take a trip to Dejima Wharf. With its great views and waterfront bars, Dejima Wharf is always a great place to pay a visit. However, when winter rolls around, it’s almost like a dream.

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With the soft glow of lights reflecting on the water, the romance is undeniable. Many restaurants even offer cozy blankets if you choose to sit outside, and cuisines including pizzas, pasta and burgers will help you feed your homesickness. November/December 2015 | nagazasshi


2. Take the plunge with Yuzu-yu A Japanese winter tradition, which takes place on the winter solstice—Yuzu-yu is a hot bath full of slices of yuzu fruits. Yuzu-yu not only smells great, it also supposedly helps ward off winter colds. These days, most people go to an onsen for their yuzu bathing experience. So if a citrusy bath sounds good to you, check out a local onsen when Winter solstice falls, or raid the supermarket for yuzu and recreate the experience at home! 3. Bring on the sweet, sweet nostalgia Forget overpriced drinks at mass coffee chains, make your own delicious cinnamon treats for half the price. Cinnamon sugar is widely available. Nestled near the spice rack or amongst the breakfast items, it’s easy to find.

or the Daiso 100 yen shops have an array of decorations—baubles, tinsel, stockings, flatware, or even a Christmas tree. They also stock Christmas onesies. We defy you not to feel festive when you’re dressed as Rudolf with a nose just as red from the cold! 5. Share the warmth with people you love Christmas is a time to be with people you love, so pick up your phones and start making plans with your friends and family! Why not try hosting your own Christmas potluck dinner? A-Price, a wholesale supermarket (with three locations in Nagasaki Prefecture— Sumiyoshi, Yorozuya-machi, and Isahaya) sells frozen raw chickens, plucked and gutted, the perfect centerpiece to your Christmas roast!

Perfect for coating toast or even sprinkled over a warm cup of tea, the smell of cinnamon is irrevocably linked with Christmas for many people. Enjoyed in front of a great festive movie, cinnamon sugar truly holds the key to having a happy holiday.

This year may not be quite the Christmas you are used to, but it will be memorable! No matter what you do or where you go, so long as you keep positive, wrap up warm, and make the most of it, we’re sure you will have an amazing Japanese Christmas! n

4. Deck the halls with tinsel and baubles

Photo credits (pp. 6 – 7):

What is Christmas without a few decorations? Cheap and cheerful Don Quixote nagazasshi | November/December 2015

Dejima Wharf at Christmas flickr.com/ marufish Candy cane heart flickr.com/75976921@ N00

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The holidays are traditionally a time of love, laughter, drunken relatives and kitschy sweaters—yet for some this vision of festivities is neither achievable (especially if you’re unable to spend it with your loved ones), nor desirable. Whatever you’re planning to do over the holidays this year, we hope these five tales of unconventional Christmases and New Years’ celebrations will warm your cockles, or maybe even give you some travel ideas of your own.

Christmas

Out of Context


A KFC Christmas Jessica Richard spent her first Christmas in Japan, in the ‘traditional’ way: with a bucket of Kentucky Fried Chicken. I’ll admit – at first I wasn’t sold on eating KFC for Christmas dinner. However, if you’ve been in Japan anytime between October and December, you’ll have seen the commercials—steaming buckets of chicken, creamy coleslaw, luscious chocolate cake and Colonel Sanders in a Santa suit. It starts to look tempting! I ordered our feast online in early November, but most of the ticket items were already sold out! When we went to pick up our order the store was packed. Employees dressed as elves scurried around feeding countless chickens into deep-fryers. Despite the chaos, we were l

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warmly greeted and received everything within ten minutes giving us ample time to take selfies with Colonel Claus. Surprisingly, the chicken we received was warm and crispy—perfect for the cold and gloomy day. It wasn’t the 38 degree Australian Christmas I’m accustomed to, but my KFC Christmas wasn’t too bad. The company of friends, and chicken, made up for that. Until next year, KFC! l LPQSTUl

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Champagne and Samgyeopsal in Seoul Lorna Hanson has rung in the New Year twice in Seoul, South Korea – albeit in two very different ways! My first New Year’s in Seoul was spent at the Bosingak Bell-Ringing Ceremony at Bosingak Belfry, on the advice of a Korean friend. A thousand people crowd the square directly outside Jonggak Station to watch politicians and celebrities give rousing speeches and ring the bell at midnight. Ensuring a good spot meant standing outside for hours, which is daunting during the extremely cold Seoul winter. Be sure to wear warm clothes if you’re interested!

The second time, our evening started with samgyeopsal (Korean barbeque), followed by clubbing in Itaewon. Now, that was an experience. The clubs we ventured to were packed with dancers, revelers, and party maniacs. There was a countdown followed by confetti and streamers sent rocketing through the air. A wall-to-ceiling screen flashed “HAPPY NEW YEAR.” The club employees passed around champagne flutes on trays and everyone saluted each other. No kisses, however. Perhaps that’s one Western tradition that has not made the jump across the Pacific, thankfully.

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A Very Hanoi Holiday James Vaughan’s Christmas day in Vietnam marked a serious departure from his usual tradition of “church, charades and curry.” I awoke that morning not in my London bed ready for coffee and presents, but in a Hanoi hotel featuring a pug freely roaming the halls. Our Christmas lunch of spicy papaya salad and coconut infused curry was certainly different from my usual festive fare. We dined at a restaurant that provided work and care for orphans, many of whom had donned Santa hats for the occasion. Not wanting to carry heavy presents on our travels, our gifts to each l

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other were Chocolate Santa Clauses and cans of potent Vietnamese Red Bull, purchased in the bustling Old Quarter the day before. After lunch we visited the Temple of Literature, a Confucian temple home to the first Vietnamese University. It was a festive day with women dressed in special garments, not because of Christmas, but to celebrate their graduation. I then realized, with joggers running laps and people heading to work, that it was just another day for the people of Hanoi. l LPQSTUl

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An Arashiyama Adventure Sophie Midgely visited Kyoto with her family last New Year’s eve, and had an unexpected adventure in a bamboo grove. New Year’s Eve brought heavy snow and, uncharacteristically for Japan, delays to the trains. Despite this, my brother and I braved a trip to the bamboo groves of Arashiyama. However, when we arrived, the snow made it impossible to find the entrance to the forest. Eventually, we noticed a small path, almost completely hidden by snow, with a rickshaw pulled by a very cold-looking man disappearing up it. We decided to investigate. The deserted path soon turned to reveal one of the tiniest shrines I’ve ever seen. Dedicated to the fox god, the shrine was packed with hundreds of tiny fox stat-

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ues – as well as numerous New Year’s revelers. The area normally reserved for washing hands housed an enormous barrel full of sake with pieces of gold floating in it. People helped themselves with the shakushi, the spoons usually used to wash your hands before you enter the shrine – so we followed suit. It definitely warmed us up and made the walk through the bamboo, heavy with snow, even more bizarre.


A Ski-Bum Christmas Will Tiley, who once spent Christmas working in Niseko, Hokkaido during ski season, tells us about the secret life of the staff. Working as a chef, I arrived at work at 6am, complete with the mandatory Christmas hangover, to put the turkeys in the oven. After some oven Tetris and a few Irish coffees there was nothing to do but wait, so my next logical step was to get out and embrace the snow. Hitting those waist-deep tree lines is the closest sensation I’ve had to genuine flight. Sadly, my skiing was cut short by the impending roast potato marathon waiting at work. Time is warped by busy kitchen

shifts, and my boss was rather liberal with the on-shift beers, so before long only bare turkey carcasses and an exhausted, tipsy kitchen brigade remained. As for our own repast – there’s something satisfying about drunkenly mauling a kebab on a bench outside a conbini for Christmas dinner…

Photo credits (pp. 8 – 11): Christmas Shisa flickr.com/28919802@N04; Author and Colonel Claus Jessica Richards; Korean barbeque flickr.com/nep; Christmas in Hanoi flickr.com/bjvs; Fox god and shrine Sophie Midgely; Mt. Shakotan flickr.com/14degrees

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Japanese Christmas Cake Culture

Rosie Fordham investigates the uniquely Japanese take on the Western Christmas cake.

photos flickr.com/skrb


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hile studying abroad in Japan four years ago, my host family asked me what “Christmas cake” was like in America. I answered, somewhat bewildered, that I’d never heard of such a concept. Sure, the American holiday season is replete with fruit cakes and other treats, but the light, fluffy cake that’s so central to Christmas here was totally unfamiliar to me. “I think it’s a Japanese thing,” I said. My host family was equally bewildered. “You mean,” they said, “Christmas cake isn’t from America?”

that had been absent in Japan during the hardscrabble war years.

According to Bruzek, the modern Christmas celebration was partly an import of the post-war period. Christmas had been known and celebrated in Japan for centuries, she explains, but it didn’t become mainstream until after the war. Anthropologist Hideo Konagaya, writing in the Journal of Popular Culture, says that Christmas traditions, which were heavily associated with American values pushed during the occupation, eventually, “represented America for Japan.” Basically, if As it turns out, we were both right. While you wanted to show that you were truly modern, and truly successful, you celAmerica, unlike the UK, France, and a ebrated Christmas, few other European The cake’s appear- and you celebrated nations, doesn’t with a cake. have its own, clearly ance and symbolism is defined “Christmas uniquely Japanese However, as with cake” from which many things, the Japanese were quick the Japanese version derives, the cake to adapt Christmas cake to fit with is inspired by a Japanese view of westJapanese customs. The classic Japanese ern (particularly American) culture. Yet Christmas cake is round, with white the cake’s appearance and symbolism is frosting and strawberries. As Konagaya uniquely Japanese. discusses, all three of these qualities can be linked to cultural symbols. For The story goes back to the days of the example, round, white things call to mind American occupation. At a time when mochi, which is traditionally eaten on food was scarce, “the sweet treats from days that have special significance, such the U.S. that the Americans handed out were a memorable luxury,” says American as New Year’s. National Public Radio’s Alison Bruzek. The red strawberries are significant, too. Before and during the war, ingredients Konagaya says, “A combination of red like sugar, butter, and milk were hard and white indicates an auspicious sign to to come by, but “once these ingredients Japanese and appears in a variety of their became more widely available, Japan’s newly formed middle class adopted [cake] cultural expressions.” These “cultural expressions” include traditional wedding as a symbol that it had finally made it.” ceremonies, and even the national flag. Sweet treats like cake came to be associated with a high standard of living, one

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Christmas cake in Japan is the result of cultural exchange and evolution

In other words, Christmas cake in Japan is the result of cultural exchange and evolution. The cake itself indicates affluence and being in touch with western culture, while its colors and shape hearken back to older celebrations. It’s yet another example of Japan’s amazing ability to make new traditions out of old. While the Japanese concept of Christmas cake seemed strange to me at first, since sharing it with my host family I’ve gained an appreciation of its special place in the Japanese holiday season. It’s even become a valuable part of my own holiday tradition. Maybe now that you know the origins of Christmas cake, it’ll become part of yours as well. After all, it doesn’t hurt that the cake is super tasty. Tabemashou! n

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Nagazasshi 8.3  

This issue the Nagazasshi brings you festive tips and tricks to make the most of your holiday season, whether you're spending it in Japan or...

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