Japanese Thanksgiving 2012

By Donnie | American Holidays in Japan

Thanksgiving in Japan 2012

Attacking the Butternut Brownie Pie. It was so freakin' good!

Thanksgiving is, undoubtedly, one of my favorite holidays of the year. I always debate in my head which one I like more between Thanksgiving and Christmas. I know people will disagree with me on this one, but I like Thanksgiving just a little bit more. Why? Well, Thanksgiving is kind of like Christmas minus the commercialism. As wonderful as Christmas is, people expect to give gifts and to receive gifts. There’s NOTHING wrong with gifts. I get that same “fuzzy good” feeling, that most people do, when I give gifts. I also enjoy receiving presents as much as anyone else. However, Thanksgiving is one of those holidays where all you really just have to do is show up and it can be something truly special. As opposed to focusing on decorations, gifts, food and people. Thanksgiving is far more simple; the heart of Thanksgiving is food and people. I’m reminded of it every time Thanksgiving rolls around here in Japan.

Every year around Thanksgiving, I experience the something similar. I make the dreadful mistake of calling home and asking Mom what she’s cooking this year. For those who’ve never met Mama Ash, when Thanksgiving rolls around…um, SHE THROWS DOWN! I’m talking turkey, I’m talking ham, I’m talking string bean casserole, Sally Lunn bread, Mama Ash Mac & Cheese, meatballs, sweet potato souffle with toasted marshmallows, carrot cake, peach pie, I’m talking epic! Hjwgeopvialrekru5231e2`w1q`wwgv (Donald wipes the slobber from his computer keyboard). Hearing about these delectable delights twists that living abroad blues knife in my heart, just a quarter turn, right around the holidays. Being that I haven’t been home for Thanksgiving (or Christmas for that matter) in five years, you start to get emotionally numb to it; but the desire to see your family never goes away.

Every year for the last four years I have spent Thanksgiving at my friend Hiroshi’s house. Hiroshi and I used to teach together at AEON. He and his family make this amazing Turkey and some incredible Japanese food to match! I get to see teachers that I haven’t seen in forever, and it’s just a wonderful time. This year, though, I ended up having to go to Tokyo for an audition that was happening smack in the middle of Hiroshi’s party, the Sunday before Thanksgiving. So I couldn’t make it. To say I was devastated wouldn’t do my emotions any justice. I knew HAD to go this audition. Without a full-time teaching income, you either push yourself or end up choosing between food and rent (which is really not fun, trust me). The audition went well, but it didn’t make me feel any better about missing the party. I laid down, eyelids sorrow-laden. I drifted off to sleep thinking to myself “I can’t believe I just missed Thanksgiving.”

I woke up the next morning with my head a bit benumbed by remorse. I sat on my computer and checking email, scanning what I had to get done this week. Instantly, my spirits were lifted! I had two more chances to have Thanksgiving Dinner. My friend Chris, who oddly enough is also from Georgia and lives in Ibaraki, was making Thanksgiving with his friend Bernisha (ALSO FROM GEORGIA!) on the 22nd. My good friend, and former AEON coworker, was also having a Thanksgiving party on the 23rd! Praises be!

I had this amazing, Georgia-style Thanksgiving right here in Japan! Everybody agreed to contribute something. I, being culinarily challenged, bought KFC (Hey! Don’t laugh! I was gonna bring cups, plates and forks. I figured at least KFC is food, lol). Chris even made sweet potato souffle! When I saw it, I nearly peed myself (just being honest). It was SOOOooo good. Speaking of tasty, Bernisha made macaroni and cheese! It is so hard to get good mac and cheese in Japan; I’m not talking about the Kraft kind either, I mean the real deal stuff.Even the corn was good! I don’t know what they did to it, but I ate myself into a stupor.


Thanksgiving in Japan 2012

Chris and Bernisha. THE GEORGIA CREW!!

Thanksgiving in Japan 2012

OH YEAH!!! Mac n cheese, sweet potato souffle, chicken, green beans, corn...killin' it!

Thanksgiving in Japan 2012

Thanksgiving Party Number one!

Thanksgiving in Japan 2012

There's nothing like good food and good company on Thanksgiving Day

I was scheduled to do a job on Thanksgiving Day, but for some reason it got canceled and I am SO glad it did. Had I not gone to Marisa’s party, I would have missed a special chance to eat, laugh, fellowship with some great people, eat some more, and play Clue 🙂 Not to mention that the food was freakin’ incredible, too:

*JG Readers: What did you bring for that party?
Donald: Oh, I brought the most exquisite Ferrero Rocher, Italian chocolates I could find.
JG Readers: Candy?
Donald: Yeah 🙁 (LOL)


Thanksgiving in Japan 2012

Nearly turkey time.

Thanksgiving in Japan 2012

Former AEON students!

Thanksgiving in Japan 2012

Two awesome AEON students

Thanksgiving in Japan 2012

The turkey carving begins

Thanksgiving in Japan 2012

I had never seen this before. Cooking a turkey with oranges inside helps keep the meat juicy and moist.

Thanksgiving in Japan Desserts

Pumpkin Pie and Butternut Brownie Pie. I'm drooling again just looking at them.

Thanksgiving in Japan 2012

すごい! Butternut Brownie Pie を食べたい!

Thanksgiving in Japan 2012

Pure comedy.

Thanksgiving in Japan 2012

The Thanksgiving crew!

Nothing tops being home for the holidays, but there is something so endearing about the makeshift, Japanese Thanksgiving. Even without having all the necessary ingredients to cook the way one would back home (not me of course), Thanksgiving alchemy occurred. It was all about people coming together. Financial status, race, religion, nationaliy, ethnic background, or any of the other stuff that divides people, just didn’t matter. We all had a good time just being ourselves, enjoying each others’ company. Sigh (Donald loosens belt to make room for protruding tummy). Do you see why I love this holiday so much?

Mom used to ask that million dollar Thanksgiving quetion “What are your thankful for this year?” I’m thankful to have a roof over my head and clothes on my back. I’m thankful to be struggling right now…reaching for my dreams. I’m also thankful to be around genuine people who are trying to do the reaching for theirs, too.

Happy Thanksgiving Everybody!

Donald Ash

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  • Nanami

    *laughs* I had a pretty quiet holiday as well. Those turkeys look pretty daggon yummy! The holiday was nice though, quiet and I talked a long spell with my mom. 🙂

    • Donald Ash

      I’m glad you had a good Thanksgiving, Nanami-chan! (Yes, that turkey was freakin’ good!)

  • We were all very thankful that you were able to come to the party this year.

    • Donald Ash

      Thanks, Marisa. I’m really glad you had the party!

  • Kurt

    And a fork!!! Now that’s traditional. Funny you post this as just after Thanksgiving one of my Japanese teachers’ friends hosted a Mochi tsuki party that was a blast. Alas, no giant wooden mallets, just mochi machines. Massive spread of Japanese food and there must have been 30-35 native Japanese plus some Americans who lived in Japan previously. Who would have thought in Arkansas? Next week it is time for 忘年会 (Bōnenkai) at our one and only Japanese run Japanese restaurant. Yeeha!

    • Donald Ash

      I have heard about the mochi tsuki parties before, but haven’t gotten to go to one yet. I’m going to have to make it a point to get to one of those when I can. That does sound like a lot of fun, Kurt!

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