Inside an envelope was the Christmas greeting I sent my folks back in December of 1990 - careful preserved by my mother, while not in anticipation for this blog, but kept in anticipation that it would be a useful reminder someday of a long ago day... which when I read the card was kind of spooky: Christmas Message - just for you.
I purchased this Christmas card in a small white stucco shop a few minutes from my apartment. Actually, Ashley had found it and had dragged me out to see this place that was close to the Ohtawara-shi boy's high school where she taught.
The shop had many items from around the world in it, but mostly it sold trinkets of the type that would impress young women - plastic jewelery done up to look pretty... perfumes, brushes, make-up stuff... cute posters... stuff like that, that made me wonder why Ashley wanted me to accompany her here, until she pointed out the selection of Christmas cards they had there.
Here we are in a small city of 50,000 people in Japan, some 100 kilometers north of Tokyo in a place most people in Japan would never consider visiting because the city's name literally means 'big - rice field - field' and I have a shop selling not only Christmas cards, but Christmas cards written in English.
Here's what I spied 25 years later on the back of the Christmas card, in white type, written in English: "Printed in Japan".
All I can think, is that some where out there, someone - a gaijin/foreigner - was hand-making Christmas cards and selling them to Japanese shops, who sold them for ¥300 (about US$3) - the price was also printed on the back of the card.
The shop also had numerous other Christmassy things, and I ended up purchasing a set of Russian nesting dolls (now lost in a fire a few years ago), and a few holiday decorations that I would use to recreate my own Christmas in Japan, seeing as how I would spending it in Japan.
A month or so earlier, Ashley and I had a tremendous breakup - all I know is she wanted out, so what baby wants, baby gets, I was solo and started sleeping with every female I laid hands on... which amounted to two women, but that was pretty good considering it happened over two days in a row.
That story is well documented elsewhere, suffice to say that whatever plans Ashley and I had of going to Thailand together were no longer plans at all. By the time the blood flowed back into my brain, all attempts by myself to go somewhere on vacation were left blowing in the wind, while somehow Ashley managed to get in with a bunch of other female AETs (none of whom I wanted to sleep with - believe it or not) who ended up going to Thailand.
I was pissed, though in hindsight, I do believe that Matthew and I may have been the only two gaijin to have stayed in Japan over the holidays and thus got a unique experience missed by others. I saw Thailand later.
Anyhow... Ashley, at this time at the shop, was still feeling sheepish about screwing up everything for me and was trying to make nice.. was it working?
Let's look at what I wrote on the Christmas card back home:
Although it doesn't really feel like Christmas here, just be aware I'm thinking of you always.
Your loving son, brother, grandson, nephew, cousin,
Dec. 5, 1990
It doesn't really feel like Christmas here...
Tomorrow I'll tell you what I did to try and make Japan feel a bit Christmassy for myself... as well as for Matthew and Ashley.
Today, by the way, would also be Ashley's birthday. I think. Unless it's tomorrow. Let's say it's today, but that's all I'm saying.