Now that we're solidly into February, it feels like time to finally write about Christmas. We spent ours in Sapporo, where it snowed like crazy on Christmas Day.
It was my first white Christmas in many, many years and also very beautiful. Especially when viewed from indoors. We spent the morning at the Hokkaido Museum of Modern Art, enjoying both the artwork and this view from their second floor. For our next stop, we chose Sapporo Factory, which is a mall inside the former Sapporo Beer factory. Partly because it was indoors, but mostly because they had a 3-D Imax theater showing Star Wars in English (with Japanese subtitles). Sure, we'd already seen it once in Okinawa, but not in 3-D or Imax.
Then we decided to get a snack in the atrium, where people were all lined up around the tree and the upper floor balconies around it. Because it turned out this tree had a light show timed to music every hour, which we got to watch over hot chocolate.
Now we come to the Japanesiest part of this Christmas story: fried chicken. Specifically, the traditional Christmas KFC meal. The way it was explained to me was that Americans living in Japan, unable to get turkey for Christmas dinner, would often have chicken instead. Some marketing genius from KFC turned this into the idea that the traditional American Christmas dinner is not only chicken, but specifically fried chicken from KFC. While most Japanese people aren't Christians and Christmas isn't a national holiday, clearly (as indicated by the tree) Japanese people enjoy the trappings of the holiday. They order their KFC Christmas meals (including cake and champagne) in advance. We thought maybe this had been exaggerated. So around dinnertime on Christmas, we rolled up to the Sapporo Station KFC to place our order.
There was a long line, but no big deal, we weren't that hungry. Yeah, that long line was to put in the order which could be picked up two hours later. By then, we were committed to the Japanese KFC Christmas experience, so we ordered, hung out in a coffee shop in the station, picked up our chicken and took it back to the hotel.
We shared one regular meal, rather than get the whole Christmas extravaganza. Why does the biscuit have a hole in the middle? Who knows?
We finished off the day with card games. We've been playing a lot of Phase 10 for a while, which had gotten kind of boring. But lately we started to mix it up with what we call Choose Your Own Adventure Phase 10, in which instead of completing the phases in order (two sets of 3; set of 3, run of 4; set of 4, run of 4; run of 7; etc.) you get to first look at your cards and then choose which phase you will attempt each hand. It adds an element of strategy. We also played one or two games of Set. I know it was only one or two, because while it's fun to play, it's also kind of brain-melting.
Our current favorite game though (which we did not take along, due to its relative bulkiness) is one I got Raj for Christmas, along with Set and Cathedral. It is Campaign Manager 2008.
You wouldn't actually have to know anything about politics at all to play this game, but I'm sure being political nerds makes it more fun for us. You play as either the campaign manager for McCain or Obama (I find that playing as the candidate you didn't want to win makes it less upsetting to lose the game) and attempt to win swing states by strategically playing your cards. We used to pretty evenly split who won this game, but Raj has adopted a new strategy and is now routinely crushing me. I'm catching on though and hopefully can mount a comeback at some not too distant point.
So there you have our last Christmas in Japan and (since we spent the first one on base and the second flying to Vietnam) by far our Japanesiest.