Friday, December 26, 2008

Mochi, onsens and nabe oh my!

While some of you are blissfully far from this small island nation during the holidays, some of us are still here holding down the fort. You know how I feel about Christmas now and I've never felt too bothered about being in Japan for "the holidays" at this time of year, not counting when I got all teary-eyed last year on an expensive keitai call to my mom from the beau's family home in the snowy north. Yes I do miss going to Granville Island in Vancouver to buy all manner of delicacies to keep us satiated through our days off from work and school, getting up at a ridiculous hour and shopping all day with my mom on Boxing Day, and of course the time-honored tradition of buttery popcorn at the movies on Christmas Day. But I'm here to remind those of you "stuck" here for the next week while your friends are back home with their families, clothing stores with more than one size and pizza with no mayonnaise, that this small island nation does have some winter delights that you can partake in too. So here we go, a small and possibly erratic list of some of the things I am looking forward to next week (the shit list to follow later of course!):

Mochi: Because who can resist pounded rice cakes?! This year as with last I get to look forward to eating mochi prepared by the beau's mom in a tasty soup and also roasted and wrapped in nori with a salty-sweet soy dipping sauce.

Onsen: To reward myself for spending a couple nights at the beau's family house in an ice cold room and not complaining (much) I am going to experience my first rotemburo in the snow this year! It's going to be a 3-day bathing fest!

Nabe: Food again! I love nabe in the winter here, especially putting rice into the broth after eating all the fish/meat/veggies/tofu, mixing it all up and enjoying another tasty treat.

Hatsumode: This year I am going to wear kimono for the first time to hatsumode, the first visit of the year to a shrine. If you go to the bigger ones there are always stalls selling food and stuff you don't need, and if you're lucky, there will be a whiff of carnival in the air.

Cinemas, Roppongi Hills: Sitting in the warm dark, eating a box of half & half butter/caramel popcorn is just the way to spend a cold winter afternoon. The endless and satisfying cycle of sweet-savoury is dizzying!

Museums: I have been holding off on going to the new exhibits at both the Mori Museum and the Teien Art Museum until next week, how blissful it will be to visit on a weekday!

O-souji: Cleaning is not fun but I do like how the Japanese clean their houses from top to bottom at the end of the year, it's a nice way to start the new one!

Eki-ben: OK food again and this isn't even limited to winter but riding the shinkansen means going early to Tokyo station and picking up some nice bento only available there. Crack open an Asahi SuperDry on board the train and you are set.

Geisha frivolities: The Tokyo scene is definitely different to that in Kyoto but the few Tokyo geisha I know always get decked out for the first week of the year with shiro-nuri (white make-up), elaborate hairstyles and special kimono just for that one week, a look completely different to the one they usually sport. I always get a thrill seeing them together in January in their finery playing stupid games and getting very drunk with customers, and I don't think it will ever cease to excite me.

If you're spending the next couple of weeks in Japan, what are some of your favourite winter things?


jaredinnakano said...

GEG, sounds like you have a fun week ahead. Isn't it a relief that the Xmas soundtrack has finally been turned off?

I, too, am looking forward to in-laws' mochi-making party and my first hatsumode. I'm also looking into borrowing a men's kimono for New Year's.

Where do Tokyo geisha entertain their customers? How did you gain access to their game-making?

Sarah said...

Granville Island! I miss lazy Sunday mornings spent there too! Sadly I won't make it there (or to Vancouver besides the airport either) this trip. Sigh.

I did go Boxing Day shoppping but wasn't terribly impressed. There was chaos in the stores but prices hadn't changed much from pre-Christmas price slashes.

While I'm not in Japan for the holidays, I'd add "illumination" to your list - all of the displays of holiday lights (I'm still amused by the circus scene at Takashimaya in Shinjuku). A nice romantic outing, especially when it isn't too cold out (not something that could be said for most of the continent on the opposite side of the Pacific Ocean!).

trannywidpussy said...

Your blogs always make me fascinated. Please continue blogging. I used to be a geisha(entertainer in Fukuoka), but I am now back to school. I am now in the Philippines since entertainers from the Philippines have been denied works as enetrtainers since 2005. I am very sad because I am unable to go back there. It is difficult to visit Japan and see my old friends I was able to gai during my saty there. Your blogs make me soemwhat connected again to Japan. Thank you very much.

Green-Eyed Geisha said...

jared: I am so relieved to have made it past the 25th! How did your kimono rental go? Tokyo geisha entertain customers at ryotei or other establishments, and sometimes accompany them to dinners, performances, etc. Their numbers have not remained as high as their sisters in Kyoto but there are still a few hanamachi left around the city. I was lucky enough to gain access to some of the Tokyo ones through an auspicious introduction.

Sarah: good call on the lights, they do make the city sparkle and even I am a sucker for those not in the shape of a Christmas tree.

tranny: Thanks for your comment, I am sorry to hear you have had trouble coming back to Japan.