Christmas Pageantry

It was a very busy Saturday last week, as we had not one, but three events on the day. All were labelled as Christmas Parties, and they showed a lot how people celebrate here in Japan.

First up was my son’s pre-school’s Christmas Festival. Each class from the smallest babies to the soon-to-be Grade Ones had a performance of various types, songs and dances, plays. The oldest class (my son’s) also had very short speeches.

The thing that sets this kind of thing apart from the Canadian-style Christmas Concert I grew up with was the general absence of the Christmas Mythology (for lack of a better word.) There were no plays about Santa Claus (although he did make a brief appearance at the end to hand out presents to the kids), no nativity plays (though one would probably not expect any in a Shinto/Buddhist culture.) In fact, the only Santa-related play I can remember was one I played a main role in for my daughter’s class a few years ago, the tapes of which I’m sure have been thankfully lost.

The themes are those usually found in Japanese kids’ plays: helping others, making friends, having fun, and so on. My son’s class’ play was about a group of robot children who long to get along with a similar group of human kids. The robots have some fantastic powers (they can fly, are very strong) but have limitations (they can’t jump and they stop working if they lose their ‘main screw’), just like the humans. Of course, in the end, they join together and become friends. I give the teachers and students a lot of credit for making the whole production.

With one event down, we returned home for lunch and then the kids and I went to Event Number Two. In our community district (or ku) we have a kind of PTA organization, and one of their events is a Christmas Party for the school-age kids (and their siblings.) I was appointed as a member of this association, which brings its own tribulations and difficulties. That is, however, a story for a different time.

The Christmas Party was kind of short, only two hours, but a good chance for all the kids to get together and play some games and get some presents. The Junior High School children were in charge and did a very good job keeping everyone entertained for the two hours. We parents simply watched to make sure nothing happened, which it didn’t. I did have to keep an eye on my son, as some of the food served would have been bad for him. He is allergic to eggs and peanuts, though thankfully it is relatively easy to avoid those things, and he is very aware of how to act, and to ask an adult if foods are safe for him.

After that we returned home to prepare for the Main Event. We hosted a Christmas Party of our own that evening. While the kids and I were at the afternoon festivities, Mommy was tidying up the house and doing some shopping. Some of the other mothers and kids from my son’s class came over for what was originally going to be Christmas Dinner, but when dates close to the 25th became unavailable, we decided to change the menu.

As one might expect, a lot of food that we take for granted in Canada are rather rare in Japan. None of the families we had over had ever eaten homemade pizza or Mexican food of any kind. So, we made pizza and tacos for the party. I handled the pizza-making chores, while The Missus prepared the tacos. I must say that both were very successful and the extra work my wife put into decorating the living room was very well appreciated by all.

It was a good chance to show my son’s friends and their families how we usually celebrate Christmas in Canada. They were surprised by our Christmas lights and tree (which at two metres is normal in Canada, but extra large here.) It was also, at 20 people, the most we’ve had in our house at one time.

Finally, at about 11pm, everyone went home and we were able to relax. It wasn’t long after that that everyone was in bed and fast asleep after a long day.

And it’s not even Christmas yet…

Edit: Thanks to Erich for catching my spelling mistake. That’s what happens what you don’t proofread.

Taco Rice

A little taste of American-style Mexican food, by way of Okinawa.

 

I was introduced to this dish by my lovely wife. When I first came to Japan, Mexican food was very hard to come by, and even harder to cook. The ingredients were nearly non-existent, aside for the odd El Paso Taco Kit.

However, I’m a much bigger fan of soft flour tortillas than of the hard corn ones found in those kits. That, and the fact that I don’t have experience with authentic Mexican cuisine, limits what I can make.

Anyhow, one night before we got married, I came home to find a dish like this waiting. My dear had cooked this for me after seeing the recipe on a TV cooking show.

(by the way, I don’t have a picture of my recipe, but it’s nearly identical to the picture here)

Needless to say I loved it.

One thing puzzled me. She said it was from Okinawa, the chain of islands south of the main Japanese archipelago. So, I did a little research to find that the dish was invented by a chef in Okinawa to appeal to American Marines stationed there.

It has since become a staple of our diet, although we had to change it a bit to suit our kids, who also love it. It’s quick and easy, and we usually have all the ingredients on-hand. I make it on average once or twice a month.

If you want to try it, here’s a simple recipe:

You’ll need:

rice–cooked, of course.

taco meat–you can make it with a packaged mix, or with whatever you put in tacos (especially you vegetarians out there.) These days, we make it milder for our kids. I use a couple of cloves of garlic and an onion (chopped), one grated carrot and a big handful of chopped spinach. Then I fry it together with some lean ground beef or pork (usually both). Next, add ketchup, a little water, and seasoning (salt, pepper, chili powder and a pinch of cumin) and simmer.

lettuce–chopped

tomato–also chopped

grated cheese–cheddar is my favourite

salsa–whatever kind you like best

The rice goes on the bottom as the base, then the vegetables, meat, cheese and salsa. You can mix up the order with little difference.

EAT.

Anyhow, give it a try.

If you have any comments or variations, leave them in the comments! I’m always looking out for new things to try!