Happy Thanksgiving ( ハピーサンクスギビング )
— Updated with new photos and a Kanji Lesson —
Thanksgiving’s coming up in the U.S. Back in 1984, I and my friend Lori, from Mystic, Connecticut, took the Keihan Line from Hirakata-shi into Kyoto. About a thirty-minute trip. We walked over to Meidi-ya, near where San-jo intersects Kawaramachi. Meidi-ya was the “international grocery store” nearest to us and where we went to stock-up on “exotic” American food for Thanksgiving: canned green beans and Campbell’s Cream of Mushroom soup for a green bean casserole; a whole chicken (turkeys were hard to find in Japan back then and, besides, the Nakamura’s, her homestay family’s, oven where we planned on doing the roasting cooking, was too small to handle a turkey); Idaho potatoes and gravy mix (we were not inclined to make it from scratch); dressing; cranberry sauce; and other odds and ends.
We brought the booty back to the Nakamura’s and over the next day or so prepared a very reasonable and respectable facsimile of a traditional American Thanksgiving Feast. I think Lori made something like pumpkin pie, but that could be my memory playing tricks on me. Being a Southerner, I made sweet tea. With it being a special occasion, large bottles of Kirin beer and sake were on hand, too. And rice. Japanese rice, of course. And as it was a special occasion, shoji were slid-back and three generations of Nakamuras and Lori and I ate seated around the low tables; my first (and so far only) Thanksgiving Dinner on the floor (a very comfortable tatami floor, mind you).
The Nakamura’s appeared genuinely touched and thought Thanksgiving was a very good and appropriate kind of holiday, worthy of celebration in Japan (no Pilgrim stories, but much to be thankful for with Japan and the Japanese going through good and awful times, sometimes owing to nature and sometimes owing to the choices of humans). Lori and I had a blast, as 21-year-olds playing cook and hosts for Thanksgiving in Japan.
And Meidi-ya’s still there in Kyoto. The same store in the same location. And it still carries exotic Campbell’s soup.
“Autumn Leaves,” from The Japan Times
A mosaic carpet of autumn foliage tinted in shades of green, yellow, orange, and red is currently rolling southward through the archipelago of Japan. 紅葉 (kōyō, crimson/leaves), the Japanese word for “autumn leaves,” only hints at the splendor of this multihued natural phenomenon.
Beeches, birches, persimmons, larches and ginkgos all produce beautiful colors, but the King of Kōyō “the tree to see,” is the Japanese maple (momiji; like kōyō, it is written with the kanji compound 紅葉). The crimson, lacy-leafed momiji — whether sunlit or artificially illuminated at night — is so impressive that the Japanese refer to autumn leaf-viewing in general as momijigari (紅葉狩り, Japanese maple/hunting).
The second kanji in 紅葉, 葉 (ha, yō), has the core meaning “leaf.” Mastering the shape of 葉 is a snap if you divide it into its three top-to-bottom components — 艹 (plant-life), 世 (generation) and 木 (tree) — and memorize the phrase, “Leaves are successive generations of plant life on a tree.” (Thirty years was the norm for a generation in ancient China, which explains why you can see three “10s” (十) in 世).
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For summertime scenes and colors along the Kamo River,see this post.
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I’m going to take about a 2-week hiatus from LetsJapan.Wordpress.com Back in early December. I’ll continue to monitor comments, of course. Happy Thanksgiving. ハピーサンクスギビング