Christmas the JWs way has been different every year. We have yet to establish a tradition, because, after four Christmases together now since marriage, we have yet to do anything the same. And so far, we like it that way.
Our first year involved staying home and eating mail-ordered turkey legs, lamenting the lack of Christmassy things in Japan, which was rather sad and lonely and we resolved never to do again. For our second year we set off for Christmas with my family in the Philippines, which involved days of preparation for a feast that disappeared within… minutes; but it was awesome. Last year we made our house the center of all the festivities, serving up turkey and mulled wine to any who graced us with their presence, except for obvious logistical reasons to our Skype visitors; it was a lot of fun, but a lot of work. This year we set off in search of the Seoul of Christmas: a meandering quest for the best Christmassy things Japan and Korea had to offer (sorry, I just can’t help myself).
Kobe Chinatown and Port Area
After an several-days-early Christmas morning in our apartment, we packed our things and some of our newly received presents and set off for Kobe. We had originally planned to see Kobe’s world famous Illuminari (sounds like “Illuminati,” heh), but it apparently ended before Christmas. So we checked out Chinatown and the port, both of which were beautiful at night.
Osaka and the German Christmas Market
The next day we headed for Osaka and the German Christmas Market. Christmas in Osaka was bittersweet, because – as some of you may know – I have been on a so-far-fruitless quest to find the Giant Rubber Duck, and much to my dismay the duck was actually in Osaka that night, happily inflated, pretty close to where we were, but I had no idea. I only found out after the fact and was quite depressed about missing it. I had initially heard the duck would be there from the 26th onward, so I planned to see it after we returned from Korea on the 27th, but by that point it was already too late. Anyways, the Christmas market was nice at least…
Finally we were off to Korea to find the Seoul of Christmas. Which we were certain would involve a little bit of love, a lot of delicious food, and a much better chance at seeing snow than we’d get in Yokkaichi.
Christmas Morning: Seoul Tower of Love
On Christmas morning, we headed for Seoul Tower at the recommendation of a friend. Apparently Seoul Tower is the place to be on Christmas Day. There are various ways to get to Seoul Tower, which is located on Namsan Mountain in the middle of the city, the most interesting of which is by gondola. Obviously, we chose that route.
N. (for North, or Namsan) Seoul Tower is also called the “Tower of Love,” which probably explains why it is so popular on Christmas, which is more like the Valentine’s Day of Japan and Korea. There are a multitude of ways couples at N. Seoul Tower can celebrate their love, including love message tiles at the top of the tower, and locks of love below it.
N Seoul Tower was relatively peaceful in the morning, which leads me to believe that evening is the time to go for the festivities. We were content to avoid the inevitable lines and chaos, though, and move on to more Christmassy adventures around Seoul.
Other Christmas Highlights in Korea
All in all, we had a very merry happy Christmas galavanting around Kobe, Osaka, Seoul and the DMZ. Unfortunately we ended up in a terrible hostel for our four nights in Seoul, which resulted in me struggling to function on increasingly compounded amounts of sleep deprivation, and probably enjoying myself less than I should have. But it was still a good time overall, and we got to see and do a bunch of stuff we didn’t on our first trip to Seoul.
As I write this, the last hours of sunlight wane on the final day of 2013. After all the traveling we’ve done (and still have to catch you up on) this past month, we’ve decided to spend New Year’s Eve in the comfort of our own home, to ring in the new year relaxing with our new video games and a lot of delicious chocolate chili mulled wine. We’ve celebrated the fourth Christmas of our marriage and of our life abroad, and are looking forward to lots of changes in 2014. The most significant of which is, of course, leaving Japan next summer and (probably) returning to Canada in search of new challenges and adventures in the next stage of our lives. 2013 has been long and tiring, and while it’s been quite eventful I think we’re both looking forward to leaving it behind and, despite the uncertainty that lies ahead, setting our sights on 2014.