You get a Christmas tree, of course.
It's December of 1990 and I'm in Ohtawara-shi, Tochigi-ken, Japan, and I'm part of the second wave of gaijin (foreigners) on the JET (Japan Exchange & Teaching) Programme - yes, I'm that old, or you're just that immature, punk.
It's around 40F, which to any Canadian not in Vancouver, British Columbia, it's not cold. Yeah, it dips well below freezing during the night, and more than once I've had to chip the ice from the surface of my goldfish aquarium so that I could feed the buggers thanks to the fact that there doesn't seem to be any insulation in my apartment.
In fact, I was told that the Japanese actually construct their buildings to 'breathe'... to allow air in and out owing to the awesome humidity the country experiences for eight months of the year in most of the areas... though perhaps not as much in the northern climes.
Whatever. The cold doesn't really affect me.
I need a Christmas tree. So, the first thought I have is to ride my bicycle to some out of the way forested area on the outskirts of the city and chop one down myself.
Several problems with that: I don't know just how illegal that might be and I don't want to be arrested. Carrying a tree on a bicycle seems dangerous. I don't have an axe or a saw, and I don't know where to get either, and don't really want to purchase the tools anyway.
I'm pretty sure I haven't seen any Boy Scouts on lots selling Christmas trees... 99% of the Japanese are Buddhist, so why would they have Christmas trees.
Ieseya... my local department store... they might have saws! That's where I shop for food, purchase film for my camera, have the film developed, purchase flowers for my apartment to cover up the sex or chili con carne fart smells...
I ride over on my bicycle... spying beside the flowers exactly what I am looking for... no quite, but close enough... a small two-foot high coniferous tree in a white plastic planter... and only ¥3500 (US$35).
I ride home with it, leave it outside on my balcony and go back out for another ride... to that small shop Ashley showed me a week earlier... the strange one that sells a lot of Christmas items like cards and Russian nesting dolls (I bought several cards and apparently several Russian dolls)... but this time... I was going to buy some decorations for my Christmas tree.
There weren't many baubles, but there were enough... and all were attachable to my tree with a colorful wire wrap like bread used to have... I also purchased some fabric that I would use as a base for it all... it kind of reminded me of Linus' security blanket.
I bought the only candle they seemed to have - why did it have to be pink? It looks like... well... not mine... but...
I dragged it all home, put it together - and with a few cards added from family and friends back in Toronto, I managed to create a little Christmas heaven in the land of the Buddhists.
I have no idea why it was so important to me, but it was. I also thought that Matthew and Ashley might appreciate the gesture as well... to show Ashley I wasn't completely angry with her for making me stay in Japan this holiday, while she jetted off to Thailand without me... to show Matthew, that if the two of us were going to stay in Japan this winter, it could at least look a little like winter.
Two days before Christmas, it snowed... like about 30 centimeters (12 inches) - it was beautiful.... Matthew and I were tossing snowballs around in front of my building...
One day before Christmas, it all melted... like you'd never even believe it had snowed the day before...
Being away from family and friends for the first time ever... having my girlfriend jet off for places unknown without me... I really did feel abandoned a bit...
But... at least I had that Christmas tree... and my good buddy Matthew.
I'll leave off on my first Christmas in Japan for now... and I'll come back on New Year's Eve with more on Matthew, who once again made sure I didn't crawl into those dark thoughts within my brain, and made me see what Japan does during the holidays.
New blogs on some other stuff I haven't written coming up until that time.