Why you should go to Japan at Christmas
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Japan. I’ll start off by saying that it’s one of those places that you really do have to go to. Not in that way where someone says; "Oh you just HAVE to take the family on a walking holiday to Snowdonia." You don’t have to do that. Or; "You just HAVE to add watercress if these Lemon Coconut Macaroon Tartlets are going to resemble anything close to passable." You don’t have to do that, either. Your Lemon Coconut Macaroon Tartlets are fine as they are. They’re really nice, actually. I’m going to tell you why you should go to Japan for Christmas. "Why are you writing this now? It’s bloody February" you probably just sagely exclaimed at your computer whilst knowingly shaking your head, preparing to digitally tussle my hair with one hand. The other hand, I imagine, is firmly placed on your hip; primed to present the index finger, which will give a shrewd uncle-like wagging. Well, it’d be a lot cheaper to book it now, so that’s my reasoning behind it. Also, I just got back from there a few weeks ago, so I need to write it now. I’ll have forgotten about all of it if I leave this until December. Anyway: Japan at Christmas, it’s a long way from home. Before you commit to anything, I imagine that you’re probably wondering; do the Starbucks over there still do the special Christmas edition coffees? The answer is yes they bloody do so don't worry about that. Initially, the whole prospect of acquiring your hot Yuletide-themed beverage can be intimidating. We all know that there’s nothing scarier than getting to a foreign country where you know nothing about the currency and have just spent 6,000 something on a Gingerbread Latte. The only thing you can do is hope for the best. Just hand your card over and hope that that translates to something less than a fiver. It probably does. Transaction wise, that’s all you need to worry about. Obviously when the language barrier situation pops up, just fall back on the trusty old British ‘point and shout’ until they’ve given you a pint of Carling, or whatever it is you want (probably a pint of Carling). Going somewhere for Christmas where they don’t actually celebrate Christmas can seem an odd idea at first. Sure, there aren’t really any Christmas trees and your Nan isn’t there but how about this: KFC for Christmas. How can you turn that down? Ok, perhaps quite easily BUT you could run the risk of looking quite the mug. KFC for Christmas is an unwritten law over in Japan. This is due to Western immigrants in the 80s wanting to find something similar to the traditional Christmas turkey they had grown accustomed to, but not being able to acquire it. Turkey is quite rare in Japan, so, somehow, the closest thing these pioneers could find to a Christmas dinner was a bucket of chicken from KFC. I think we can all agree that they probably didn’t look hard enough, but there we are. In retrospect we probably should have sent someone over with a bit more culinary inventiveness. A tradition was born and if you’re in Japan on Christmas and aren’t having KFC, you don’t know nothing ‘bout nothing. My friends and I were some of the unlucky few who didn’t have Christmas KFC, as you have to book it in advance if you want in on December 25th (!) Sure, I would say that Japanese KFC tastes a bit better than British KFC. But Christmas better? Probably not. But being there and seeing Japanese people lose it over Christmas KFC is kind of cool. You know what, I've always thought that KFC customers in the UK are a little blase for my liking so this was a really refreshing change. Food is something they do differently over there and you need to be prepared to eat things that are impossible to prepare for. Of course, you can just go to Japanese McDonalds and Japanese Toby Carvery for every meal but that’s a bit silly. Also, pictures of chips aren’t exactly going to get you many likes on Instagram, (which I imagine is at least 70% of the reason people go on holiday) are they? No. Anyway, unless you’re sitting in the middle of Tokyo High Street, don’t expect to find an English menu. Expect to sit there confused and end up picking out whatever contains the most of your favourite looking Japanese-characters (Personally, I liked going for the exciting ones that looked a bit like this: éºº or é£Ÿ compared to the boring ones that look like this: ã£ã¦). Anyway, whatever you order, expect to be greeted with raw chicken heart, which is actually pretty good. They also do that thing where they include poison in some dishes, which is something restaurants tend to avoid in England. Poisonous blowfish is the dish and it's just poisonous enough that it makes your mouth go a bit numb but don’t actually kill you. I mentioned that the Japanese do not celebrate Christmas but they definitely acknowledge it. Their attitude towards it is similar to the way British people seem to feel about Black Friday these days; we think it’s important, we act like it’s a thing that’s been a part of our culture for years but we don’t get a day off work for it. Although Japanese people don’t punch each other in the entrance to Ryman’s in a frantic rush to be the first to get the hot new offerings from Biro on Christmas so maybe they’re not that similar. They celebrate Christmas in the way that they’ll wander round with a Santa hat on Christmas Day but don’t exchange gifts. It is by far the weirdest place I’ve ever seen and I’ve seen it all. The people are the shyest folk you could ever meet but then also the friendliest. Everywhere you go, there are warnings telling you to save power but at the same time, you are surrounded by more neon than your eyeballs can physically process. An interesting thing I learnt whilst I was there was that Japan’s birth rate is so low that they sell more adult diapers per year than baby diapers. And I don’t think that can all be blamed on Christmas KFC. Honestly every other shop you see is an adult diaper store (that isn't true). Japanese people just seem to not procreate as often as the rest of the world. The population is shrinking at an alarming rate and, if it carries on like this, there will be one third less Japanese people on this Earth in 2050. There are a lot of different theories regarding why this may be. One is that, they are less social than they used to be. Another is that they are most preoccupied with their hobbies. An unfortunate side effect to having loads of cool futuristic shit. Although I can't imagine British people would stop shagging if they suddenly had access to stuff like a toilet that yells breaking news at you. Also, the fact that Japan make the most realistic sex dolls in the world might have something to do with the downturn in pregnancies (http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/world-news/japanese-sex-dolls-now-life-like-4040718). I don’t know a great deal about the sex dolls (honestly) but, unlike real partners, they apparently don’t expect birthday presents or make you wash, which are of course, both very important issues for the modern Japanese man. I'm not sure if this information is paramount to a Christmas trip to Japan but I thought you'd like to know.
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