Hello, this is Jason.
As an American living in Japan, I find it pretty easy to find surrogate holidays to cope for the holidays I am missing in America. For example; The 4th of July we have fireworks (花火), but Japan has festivals that have these all summer long. Also, you can attend cookouts a lot here, so I never feel like I am missing out. Christmas is like Valentine’s Day here, but my wife and I celebrate it in the Western Cultural way, and since Japanese New Year’s is a lot like Christmas in the family sense, I feel I get the family experience of Christmas through that. However, there is one holiday I miss and I can’t find a surrogate holiday for and that is Thanksgiving.
Thanksgiving is a holiday where American’s celebrate the first harvest after coming to America in 1621. It a time when everyone comes home and the family gather’s around the dinner table to have a large dinner (feast) to give thanks for what they have in life. (family, health, a job etc.) More than anything else though it’s a time just to be together with your family and talk with people you may not get to meet so much and to eat more food in a single meal than you ever dreamed you could have.
For me it meant going to my Grandparents’ house in my hometown. My Grandmother would cook the turkey and various side dishes and my Mother would bake pumpkin pie and pecan pie for desert. As a kid I always enjoyed all the food, but as I get older it has slowly become more and more a favorite holiday of mine. As I get older I find more and more I appreciate family and family gatherings. Also, it’s a lot of great tasting food.
Unfortunately Japanese ovens are too small to cook a turkey in. When I first moved to here I checked Yodabashi Camera to buy the biggest oven they had, but even the biggest was too small for Turkeys or large pizzas. There are however places having Thankgiving Dinners like the American Club, but it’s way over priced, so I think I’ll pass on that. What I can do though is cook traditional Thanksgiving Pies. My favorite is pumpkin pie, and before moving here, I asked my Mother for the recipe for it. This weekend I plan to cook a pie or two for us to enjoy. The best part about making them is they are made with only things that smell good like pumpkin, nutmeg, cinnamon etc. Therefore while it is cooking in the oven, the apartment smells amazing and will stay like that for the rest of the day. Here’s a shot of the pies from last year.
Even though I can make the pies, it’s always a bit of a downer reading posts on Google+ from friends posting pictures of their family’s Thanksgiving and all the glorious food they ate. Thankfully I can at least make it home every other year for Christmas, and many of the dishes for Christmas are the same as Thanksgiving, so I can get my fill of it then.
Anyway, this year I am thankful for having a job at a great company and for the many holidays Japan has that are similar in celebration to keep me from getting homesick. Happy Thanksgiving everyone!