Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Halloween and Thanksgiving in Japan... Can it be done?!

Living in Japan means I have many opportunities to experience Japanese culture and holidays, but additionally it means the chance to share my own with my students and the friends I make here. Just because I'm living abroad doesn't mean I have to sacrifice two of my favorite American traditions: Halloween costumes and the chance to pig out on turkey, potatoes and pumpkin pie.

While Halloween is growing in popularity here mostly due to the fact that people like to buy cute stuff with pumpkins on it, there are few people who actually celebrate it. Fortunately, if you want to have your own party the supplies are plentiful and it's relatively easy to find costumes (Don Quixote has plenty, including many you may wish you'd never been forced to look upon.)

Thank god neither of those turned up at the club. ...As far as I know.
I was lucky this year because my friend Teal, with whom I've shared many costuming adventures, came to visit me in Sendai in time for Halloween. I made two costumes this year: a Mario costume for my students, and a Bogart-inspired P.I. costume. To go with the latter, Teal put together an excellent "dame" costume, almost entirely from things already in her wardrobe. (That should probably tell you something about Teal's personality...) We also faked a nice bruise and cut on my face using just eyeshadow and lipstick. We celebrated at the Irish pub downtown (which had great decorations, but not much going on) and Bar Isn't It, a club which tends to attract a lot of foreigners. The club was packed- to the point where you couldn't even move to dance anymore around 1:30 a.m.- and there was a good mix of foreigners and Japanese, nearly all in interesting costumes.

"Even before she'd told me her name, I knew it was Trouble."

Girliest Mario ever, y/y?

So Halloween, like I said, is relatively easy to celebrate in Japan. If you're not in a large city, you may not be able to find a party to go to, but it should be possible to host your own (provided you have an apartment larger than 2 tatami mats.) Thanksgiving, on the other hand, not so easy- especially if you want to be traditional and do turkey, cranberry sauce, the works. Which of course I did.

Fortunately I am blessed with a large apartment and a friend named Mutsumi, who can apparently find anything. She managed to order us a turkey, get loads of free vegetables, and even make a pumpkin pie from scratch. Clearly if you're going to attempt a Turkey Day Party in Japan, you're going to need a Mutsumi or it's probably going to end in tears. We were forced to get the smallest turkey available, which weighs 2 kilos (about 4 lbs) and costs about 3500 yen ($35). Despite being the smallest turkey I have ever seen in my life, it barely managed to fit into my tiny Japanese oven. Still, I am extremely lucky to actually have an oven, so no complaints here.

The baby turkey, whose untimely demise will forever weigh upon my conscience.

It's like the least cute Easy Bake Oven ever made.
Despite the very unlikely odds that all would go well, it actually did- there were no kitchen-related disasters, fire or otherwise, and the food all turned out well. The baby turkey was juicy and delicious thanks to an Alton Brown recipe from Food Network's website, and we had all the basics: mashed potatoes, gravy, cranberry sauce, stuffing and a sweet potato souffle. Also, my friends brought many wonderful things, including hummus, great wine, a cheesecake and good company. All in all, a success!

You will definitely need a Mutsumi.


  1. Testing 1,2,3...

    Hooray, comments are finally working!!

  2. I so love your Halloween costume, Maura. <3 Congrats on your Turkey Day party! It looks like it was a lot of fun~!!!

    Fantastic blog-- I shall live vicariously....... Glad you are well!

  3. Jealous. To the extreme. You and Teal look amazing. Love the Mario costume, and yay Thanksgiving! :))) Kinda makes me feel like I should have interesting adventures so that I can blog about things as well! Way to inspire, m'dear. And I'm sure we'll talk soon. eventually. When school's out. :D Which for me is in a few weeks. HA. :)

  4. Holy crap, that now work! Great costumes, the Mario pose is hilarious.

  5. Thanks everyone! It's great to have the comments finally working so I can hear from you all :D

    Glad you guys like the costumes! I'm working on stuff for Christmas now, so there will be more costume-related posts coming soon.

    Teresa- Go forth and adventure! Somehow, I'm sure you'll have no problem finding some. :)