Roosters, Egrets, and Manhole Covers, Oh My!

Who says manhole covers cannot be useful and beautiful? The Japanese see the potential. In both Kobe and Himeji, I found myself searching out these beauties like my students search out Pokémon Go. Here’s a few for you:

Here’s to municipal beauty!

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.