What Japanese People Think About Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!!

I am back in Boston to celebrate Thanksgiving with my family. The trek from my home Southern California to my family’s house in Massachusetts took 2 whole days. It felt looooong but then I remembered the early settlers who made the trek from the East Coast to the West Coast by horse-drawn covered wagon. Yes a 5-hour bus ride followed by a cross-continental flight was not always comfortable but it definitely beat traveling for months by covered wagon!

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Plus I got to travel on the same plane with Kosuke! Although we travel frequently, this is only our second time flying on the same plane together. Having a companion makes the trip more fun for sure. It has been several years since I was able to join my family’s Thanksgiving celebration (and this is Kosuke’s first time). I am very happy to be here.

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Thanksgiving in the U.S. = New Years in Japan

Thanksgiving is not celebrated in Japan. The Thanksgiving holiday is probably closest to the New Years (大正月) holiday in Japan. Similarities between Thanksgiving in the U.S. and New Years in Japan include:

  1. Several days off from work. In the U.S., we typically get Thursday and Friday off from work. We might even end early on Wednesday. In Japan, most business shut down from January 1st to the 3rd to celebrate New Years.
  2.  People tend to gather with their family to celebrate the holiday.
  3.  Food plays a key role. In the U.S., the Thanksgiving menu includes turkey, gravy, and stuffing. In Japan, the menu includes traditional stewed vegetables, seafood, and meat (お節料理), along with pounded rice cake (もち).IMG_1412.JPGIMG_1417.JPG
  4. Shopping and sales!! Like Black Friday in the U.S., many shops in Japan offer special New Years’ deals, turning both holidays into an excuse to get out and shop.

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How Thanksgiving Looks from Japan

Based on questions from my Japanese friends, probably the biggest mystery of the Thanksgiving holiday from a Japanese perspective is the massive turkey. Most Japanese homes do not have ovens. Roasting even a small 3-pound chicken is nearly impossible in Japan. So buying, storing, and roasting a 15-pound turkey at home is definitely outside the scope of most Japanese kitchens.

To get a Japanese perspective on Thanksgiving, I searched Naver Matome, a simple platform in Japan that allows user to create curated pages of images, links, and videos on a specific topic. Here is a highly ranked Naver Matome post (#25 most popular, with over 50,000 views) that I found on Thanksgiving. I was impressed by the accuracy of the information and really enjoyed seeing which photographs the author chose to illustrate their points. Enjoy!

(The text in orange is my translation from the original Japanese.)

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(See original content here.)

Happy Thanksgiving again and thanks for stopping by! What is your favorite Thanksgiving food or tradition?

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