Monday, November 26, 2007

Japan Thanksgiving Extravaganza 2007!

Hey gang. Time to take a break from talking about the house and fill you in on our holiday experiences. Don't worry, we won't forget about the exciting action of the "where we live" installments. They are sure to return.

Hopefully everyone back home in the good ol' U.S. of A. had a wonderful turkey day. We sure did. I should start by explaining that even during the first couple days of orientation in Tokyo, back in September, it was decided that because of our ample amount of space in our three story house, the Thanksgiving party for the Fulbrighters would be at our place. As we love to host parties, we took on this task optimistically.

Because Thanksgiving isn't a national holiday in Japan, everyone had obligations on Thursday, so we knew it would have to be a weekend endeavor. Several of our guests couldn't make it until Sunday, so that became our Thanksgiving day. In the weeks before the event, our guest list began to grow, as Fulbrighters began inviting their friends along. Not having the heart to turn Americans down (especially because several of them are here teaching English with a company called NOVA, which has just declared bankrupsy and isn't paying their employees) everyone who got invited was allowed to come. Our final total, 20 people! It was a huge crew.

Everyone brought a dish to pass, or drinks, or something to offer for the festivities. Friends started arriving as early as Friday morning from all over the country. The first to arrive was our Friend Anna, who lives on Kyushu, the Southernmost main island of Japan. If you recall from an earlier post, we went to visit near where she is from a couple weeks ago. She came by ferry, just as we did.

By Friday night, there were 6 of us, and by Saturday night, 10. On Saturday, Kendra led an expedition up Mt. Rokko for some fall foliage watching. Here's a picture.

They ended up taking a different route back down the mountain than last time, and found this neat little pond up in the hills. Pretty, huh? I (Aaron) stayed home, awaiting other guests' arrival. That night, we all went out for Mexican food, and stopped out at an all you can play arcade. It was quite fun. Sunday, it got crazy.

All day, eveyone scrambled to cook their contribution to the meal. We had about 16 people in the livingroom/kitchen for most of the day. Needless to say, the kitchen was a brutal mess.

We had the stove and two hot plates going. It smelled great, and everyone was very hungry. But it took forever to get everything ready. Amidst the chaos, Katherine found a secluded place to prepare part of her contribution.

Yes, this is our stairway. Anway. We didn't have nearly enough room for everyone upstairs, so we decided to use the sacred tatami room on the bottom floor for our dinner (see upcoming post on the tatami room for more information).

Picture this, only with 20 people instead of seven. Yeah, it was a little tight. We actually had to spread out in the room during the actual meal. If you look closely, you'll see that the left portion of our dinner table is actually the door to our wash room. Hey, we had to work with what we had.

Also, many of us wore little turkey/native american headgear that our friend Mana made for us on the Shinkansen (bullet train) ride over. Here she is, sporting her decorative hat:

As for food, we had one of the craziest spreads I've ever seen. Picture twenty people each bringing something different to the table. We had a great combination of classic American and traditional Japanese food in one epoc meal. First thanksgiving I ever ate octopus at:

Yes, that's a tentacle. Andrea nad Anna did an excellent job making a traditional Kansai dish called Takoyaki. Tako is the Japanese word for octopus, (not to be confused with Mexican tacos)and yaki just means something grilled (though it usually just refers to anything cooked in a pan of any kind). They are like tiny dumplings with a piece of octopus inside. Quite excellent.

Alright, I'm sure your wondering, "they had octopus, but did they have Turkey?" Don't worry friends. We had turkey like we've never had turkey before. Actually, it took Kendra and I two separate trips to the nearby Rokko island (a man-made island accessible by train) to find a turkey. Don't gasp too hard, but it cost us around $50 American for a roughly 14 lb turkey. It was worth it.

Kendra decided she wanted to brine the turkey, which is sort of like a marinade, but not really. Anyway, the brine had to be in a container big enough to hold a whole turkey, and it had to be refrigerated. So, naturally, we just used the crisper drawer:

So, problem one was finding the turkey. Problem two was figuring out how to brine it. Problem three was figuring out a way to cook it without an oven. We knew that no matter what we did, we were going to have to disassemble the turkey and cook it piece by piece. Kendra did a masterful job hacking the bird to pieces, despite her lack of a proper chopping knife. First, it was the sound of cracking bone, and then the sizzle of searing flesh. Into the pan the pieces went, one by one, fried to a golden brown perfection.

It was seriously some of the best Turkey I've ever had. I was so thankful to have it, I wrote this Haiku:

Golden crispy skin
Enveloping sweet white meat
Making me thankful

And I was very pleased, because even though I was in Japan, I still got the holy trinity of Thanksgiving: Turkey, stuffing, and mashed potatoes. Actually, there were two kinds of mashed potatoes. We had pie, and pumpkin pasties. Kendra made spiced cider, and we had home made fruity sangria. Overall, it was a great success. So that's our Thanksgiving story. Hope your holiday was just as memorable!

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