Christmas in Japan with the Hallocks

After the passing of our beloved dogs, Mr. Hallock and I decided that we needed to travel before we adopted any more animals. (Well, just one pooch at a time. That’s our limit, I swear. I’ll let you know.)

Where to go for our first voyage? Japan! (Mr. H spent the very best years of his childhood living in Kobe, so there was a nostalgic element here. For my part, I just love the food.)

Japan travel photo Jennifer Hallock author of Sugar Sun steamy historical romance series. Serious history. Serious sex. Happily ever after.
Christmas Eve shopping in the Ninenzaka and Sannen-zaka preserved districts of Kyoto.

A Buddhist/Shinto country may seem an odd choice for Christmas, but it was perfect for two Americans seeking an escape from the heavy pressure of the holiday in the States.

Japan travel photo Jennifer Hallock author of Sugar Sun steamy historical romance series. Serious history. Serious sex. Happily ever after.
A parade of Japanese Santas on motorbikes was a rare treat in Kyoto.

Not that Christmas is any less commercial in Japan. It may be more so. They have accepted all the fun stuff—Santa, big meals, and general jolliness—without expectations or drama. For us, that was a welcome escape.

Japan travel photo Jennifer Hallock author of Sugar Sun steamy historical romance series. Serious history. Serious sex. Happily ever after.
On Christmas Day, Santa guided us to the bamboo gardens of Arashiyama on the eastern edge of Kyoto.

Mr. Hallock postulates that the Japanese view Christmas sorta like Valentine’s Day: you won’t get the day off work, but you have a good excuse to eat chocolate.

Japan travel photo Jennifer Hallock author of Sugar Sun steamy historical romance series. Serious history. Serious sex. Happily ever after.
The tradition in Japan is cake with strawberries. I approve. But a scarce harvest has left the fruit more expensive than ever. I saw a box of 20 gorgeously presented white and red strawberries for $100. That’s $5 a berry. These cakes are not cheap, either, at $5 a piece.

I wonder if the popularity of Christmas is due to Santa’s suit. In Japan, red is the traditional color of joy, happiness, and good fortune. White means truth and new beginnings. White has an ambivalent message, in fact, because it is the color used for both funerals and imperial regalia, such as the emperor’s tatami mat edging at the palace in Kyoto. Red and white are the two colors of the Japanese flag and the Santa-image-shaping Coca-Cola Company. Had Santa’s suit been another color (or soot-colored like the famous poem by Clement Clarke Moore), would it have still caught on?

Japan travel photo Jennifer Hallock author of Sugar Sun steamy historical romance series. Serious history. Serious sex. Happily ever after.
Santa’s helpers selling delicious treats in the mall. These full cakes are about $30-$40 each.
Japan travel photo Jennifer Hallock author of Sugar Sun steamy historical romance series. Serious history. Serious sex. Happily ever after.
Or how about a little Christmas fritter? This is more my price range.
Japan travel photo Jennifer Hallock author of Sugar Sun steamy historical romance series. Serious history. Serious sex. Happily ever after.
But, really, what says Christmas more than a $12 apple? It seems they grew the fruit with a sticker over it to discolor the skin. Cool, huh? Not cool enough for $12, but cool.
Japan travel photo Jennifer Hallock author of Sugar Sun steamy historical romance series. Serious history. Serious sex. Happily ever after.
I just had to finish with this one. Mr. H and I have our own tradition born the first year of marriage. We were living in West Beirut—the Muslim half of a multicultural town—and everything was open for the holiday. And Beirut’s Santa (yes, there was one) sold pizza! We weren’t much of cooks back then so we bought the pizza, and it was delicious. We have eaten a Christmas pizza every year since, and I guess that we are not the only ones! (We did not eat this piece from the picture, though. Eww.)

There will be more Japan posts to come. Themes will include Hello Kitty, good food, sewer drains, and much, much more. I don’t know what is better than cool sewer drains, but trust me I’ll find it.

Sugar Sun glossary terms in alphabetical order

At long last, an alphabetical listing of the Sugar Sun glossary terms! Simply click on the graphic of your choice to open the annotated post in a new window. This list will be updated to include new terms as their posts are written.

Ah Tay bed glossary term in Sugar Sun steamy historical romance series by author Jennifer Hallock. Serious history. Serious fun. Happily ever after.

aswang glossary term in Sugar Sun steamy historical romance series by author Jennifer Hallock. Serious history. Serious fun. Happily ever after.

babaylanes glossary term in Sugar Sun steamy historical romance series by author Jennifer Hallock. Serious history. Serious fun. Happily ever after.

bahay kubo glossary term in Sugar Sun steamy historical romance series by author Jennifer Hallock. Serious history. Serious fun. Happily ever after.

bahay na bato glossary term in Sugar Sun steamy historical romance series by author Jennifer Hallock. Serious history. Serious fun. Happily ever after.

banca boat outrigger cockroach language glossary term in Sugar Sun steamy historical romance series by author Jennifer Hallock. Serious history. Serious fun. Happily ever after.

barong tagalog dress shirt glossary term in Sugar Sun steamy historical romance series by author Jennifer Hallock. Serious history. Serious fun. Happily ever after.

bodbod budbud rice dessert glossary term in Sugar Sun steamy historical romance series by author Jennifer Hallock. Serious history. Serious fun. Happily ever after.

boondocks backwoods wilderness mountain language glossary term in Sugar Sun steamy historical romance series by author Jennifer Hallock. Serious history. Serious fun. Happily ever after.

calamansi kalamansi glossary term in Sugar Sun steamy historical romance series by author Jennifer Hallock. Serious history. Serious fun. Happily ever after.

calesa carriage glossary term in Sugar Sun steamy historical romance series by author Jennifer Hallock. Serious history. Serious fun. Happily ever after.

capiz oyster shell window glossary term in Sugar Sun steamy historical romance series by author Jennifer Hallock. Serious history. Serious fun. Happily ever after.

carabao boat glossary term in Sugar Sun steamy historical romance series by author Jennifer Hallock. Serious history. Serious fun. Happily ever after.

casco boat glossary term in Sugar Sun steamy historical romance series by author Jennifer Hallock. Serious history. Serious fun. Happily ever after.

daigon Christmas pageant glossary term in Sugar Sun steamy historical romance series by author Jennifer Hallock. Serious history. Serious fun. Happily ever after.

goo-goo racial racism slur American soldiers glossary term in Sugar Sun steamy historical romance series by author Jennifer Hallock. Serious history. Serious fun. Happily ever after.

hacendero haciendero sugar farmer glossary term in Sugar Sun steamy historical romance series by author Jennifer Hallock. Serious history. Serious fun. Happily ever after.

ilustrado Filipino elite education Spain mestizo glossary term in Sugar Sun steamy historical romance series by author Jennifer Hallock. Serious history. Serious fun. Happily ever after.

insular colony colonial Philippines glossary term in Sugar Sun steamy historical romance series by author Jennifer Hallock. Serious history. Serious fun. Happily ever after.

insurrecto Philippine insurrection war revolutionary glossary term in Sugar Sun steamy historical romance series by author Jennifer Hallock. Serious history. Serious fun. Happily ever after.

kristo cockfight cockfighting bet gambling glossary term in Sugar Sun steamy historical romance series by author Jennifer Hallock. Serious history. Serious fun. Happily ever after.

lechon roasted suckling pig glossary term in Sugar Sun steamy historical romance series by author Jennifer Hallock. Serious history. Serious fun. Happily ever after.

pandesal bread sweet food glossary term in Sugar Sun steamy historical romance series by author Jennifer Hallock. Serious history. Serious fun. Happily ever after.

parol Christmas holiday festival light glossary term in Sugar Sun steamy historical romance series by author Jennifer Hallock. Serious history. Serious fun. Happily ever after.

pensionado education university scholarship glossary term in Sugar Sun steamy historical romance series by author Jennifer Hallock. Serious history. Serious fun. Happily ever after.

quartermaster army supply scandal Manila Hotel Oriente glossary term in Sugar Sun steamy historical romance series by author Jennifer Hallock. Serious history. Serious fun. Happily ever after.

sillon butaka planter chair furniture glossary term in Sugar Sun steamy historical romance series by author Jennifer Hallock. Serious history. Serious fun. Happily ever after.

Sinulog Santo Niño Spanish Magellan Catholicism saint glossary term in Sugar Sun steamy historical romance series by author Jennifer Hallock. Serious history. Serious fun. Happily ever after.

sipa hacky sack jianzi shuttlecock sport glossary term in Sugar Sun steamy historical romance series by author Jennifer Hallock. Serious history. Serious fun. Happily ever after.

card gambling sungka mancala panguingue glossary term in Sugar Sun steamy historical romance series by author Jennifer Hallock. Serious history. Serious fun. Happily ever after.

Thomasite education teacher school glossary term in Sugar Sun steamy historical romance series by author Jennifer Hallock. Serious history. Serious fun. Happily ever after.

tsokolate Spanish hot chocolate glossary term in Sugar Sun steamy historical romance series by author Jennifer Hallock. Serious history. Serious fun. Happily ever after.

water cure torture Philippine American war soldier glossary term in Sugar Sun steamy historical romance series by author Jennifer Hallock. Serious history. Serious fun. Happily ever after.

I hope the posts are helpful in rounding out the historical context of the Sugar Sun series. They are certainly fun to write! Enjoy.

Sugar Sun series glossary term #17: bodbod (also spelled budbud)

Javier approached her, but she was too engrossed in her study of the food to notice. He positioned his chin behind the nape of her neck. “Bodbod,” he whispered.

Georgina spun so fast that she lost her balance. Javier steadied her before she could crash into the table and ruin the peddler’s week of hard work. She recovered, though he suspected her heart was racing. She pulled her wrist from him before he could count the beats.

Javier handed some change to the vendor and took the sweet in question. “Bodbod,” he explained. “It’s made of sticky rice and chocolate. Here. You’ll like it.”

She tore off a small piece and held it up for further inspection.

“Really,” he said, trying not to laugh. He counted off the ingredients on his fingers. “Rice, coconut milk, sugar, salt, and chocolate. No tricks, I swear.”

— From Under the Sugar Sun

Needless to say, Georgina liked the bodbod. I mean, what’s not to like? Sticky rice with mango alone was responsible for a fifteen-pound weight gain back when I was 19. Add chocolate to that mix? I’m a goner.

I was inspired to write this post because Suzette sent me a picture of a the Budbud-Kabog stall in Legazpi Market in Makati, and I got all jealous, like Fifty Shades of Green. And the owner is from Bais! And he has sugar baron stories! I’ve got more research to do…checking PAL fares now.

Anyway, bodbod was one of the highlights of my research trip to Bais, Tanjay, and Dumaguete. Apparently, I’m not the only one: Andrews Calumpang wrote a song about the delight, entitled “Ang Budbud sa Tanjay.” Tanjay even has a festival to bodbod every third week in December, where they make the world’s biggest bodbod (80 kilos) and the world’s smallest (fits in a matchbox).

The famous sweet sticky rice treat of Tanjay, next to Bais, called Bodbod. It includes native chocolate, so of course it’s good. Photo (c) Jennifer Hallock.

If you’re new to street food, you’ll notice the eco-friendly banana leaf packaging. Given my fight to extricate new earbuds out of their blister pack this morning, I think we should sell everything in banana leaves. According to Choose Philippines, the antibacterial properties of the coconut oil will keep the bodbod fresh for a week.

All signs point to bodbod! Fate wants me to eat all the sweet treats. It’s destiny!

Sugar Sun series glossary term #5: Tsokolate

Being colonized by Spanish priests put more emphasis on other worldly bliss rather than good old fashioned worldly bliss, like cooking. However, the Spanish did chocolate well, and, in the end, isn’t that all that matters? One might think that hot chocolate would not be desirable in a tropical country, but it was not always served steaming hot. And for several months, the weather in the islands can be downright cool—okay, “coolish” to New Englanders. And, okay, only in the mornings, but this is when tsokolate is served. Chocolate in the mornings? Sign me up!

Glutinous (sweet) rice flakes with hot chocolate made with tablea, the native Philippines chocolate. The rice flakes sink to the bottom, swell up with the chocolatey goodness, and create a warm, filling, tasty chocolate rice porridge. Creative Commons photo by Chotda.

Making it in the early 1900s went like this. First, you had to be sure your lechera (milkmaid) had come and filled the earthen jar in your kitchen. She probably did that in the wee hours of the morning, so you’re good. Grab your chocolatera—the brew pot, maybe made of blue enameled metal—and add milk, a chocolate tablea or two (sold in tiny cacao hockey pucks or even handmade balls with ground cashew nut), sugar, and sometimes egg white. The trick is that you cannot just let it burn on the range. You must constantly mix and beat it with your batidor, the wooden implement in the picture above. You swirl the batidor between your palms and it smooths and froths as you cook. The result is thicker and less sweet than American hot chocolate, but it is more true to the Mesoamerican drink the Spanish adopted. Check out this site for great action photos! (Featured Creative Commons photo by TwinkleTuason.)