Well, winter sure came fast. Japan pretty much skipped fall this year. The leaves hadn’t even really gotten a chance to change, and it’s already too cold to leave my house without a coat. Last year around this time, my friend and I were starting to feel the winter blues, so we started preparing for our trip to Hong Kong.
This year I am going to South Korea for Christmas and New Year’s. Last year I spent Christmas Eve (which is a popular couple’s date night in Japan – whereas Christmas isn’t as big of a deal) at a Matsushita Yuya concert. It was a great show, and we got to hear him sing tons of Christmas songs, both in English and Japanese. Christmas is my favorite holiday, so it was nice for me to instill some live carols into my otherwise normal work week.
On Christmas Day, a JET friend of mine and I went to a Drum Tao taiko performance. TAO is a traditional Japanese drumming group, where the members train for years in the mountains cut off from society. They add lots of modern costumes and liveliness to their shows, but the best part about seeing them is experiencing Japanese traditional music. If anyone reading this hasn’t seen a TAO performance before, you really should. They travel all over the world. In fact, the first time I saw the group perform, I was a freshman in college and they came to perform downtown near the university I attended.
New Year’s is a much bigger deal in Japan, so we actually get off work and school. Many foreign teachers take off work only during breaks from school, so New Year’s is a good time to do so. In Hong Kong, we were reenergized by the constant view of the ocean, the amazing food, the breathtaking views, and of course, seeing Bruce Lee statues and wax figures everywhere!
This year I am excited to spend the holidays in South Korea. Last time I went, in August, I was wearing shorts. I am excited to see how winter culture is compared to the hot, muggy summer. A few years back, I did visit Seoul and Busan in March, and it was cold enough to snow one day while we were shopping.
After I caught a cold last week, I brought out my kotatsu (a seductive little heated table and blanket combo that renders anyone who sits under it incapable of movement) and now I come home after work and get under it immediately. The only part of my house that has a heater is my living room, so I have to sleep with an electric blanket, and the kotatsu is the only thing keeping me sane most of the time.
School buildings aren’t heated in Japan, either. The teacher’s rooms are generally warmer than the classrooms. In summer, I am always complaining about the heat, wishing for winter. Now that it’s already here, I am just hoping my upcoming concerts and trips will keep my thoughts in a happy place.
I have two beta readers for my novel, so I am doing what I can to edit so I can get feedback. So far it has been a really positive experience. I hope I can get my book published eventually. Grad school is going well, and I get a three week break after this class ends until my next one starts. I am keeping up with my Korean studies and even though it is sometimes discouraging to come home from work tired and cold just to realize you have a long way to go in the Korean language department, I am doing my best. I have lived in Japan while fluent in Japanese for so many years now that I have almost forgotten what it was like to struggle with a language. Going to Hong Kong and Korea really reminds me of how difficult it is not speaking the language.
Tomorrow I am going to an Arashi concert! And in one week, my favorite Korean is coming back to Japan. I just hope the cold doesn’t freeze my brain before then. Eat some nabe, everyone!