Six years ago I wandered into a bar in Kuki, Japan. I was giving Aya some alone time with her parents so I decided to set out on my own. Feeling a little overconfident and wanting a sense of independence and adventure, I hit the streets loaded with about ten Japanese words in my vocabulary and a digital translator dictionary that I had no idea how to work.
One very popular winter fruit in Japan is a clementine, or they call them, mikan (mē-con). Are they the exact same fruit? Honestly, I have no idea, but I can tell you they are pretty darn close. Back home in Michigan, I love to get a box of Cuties and eat them three at time. Here, you can do the same thing, except you can do a lot more than just eat them plain. There is mikan juice, mikan flavored yogurt, jam, cookies, dressing, and cakes, just to name a few. They are even used as part of the traditional New Year’s decorations. They are so common this time of year you can see them growing on tress throughout the neighborhood. Mikans are definitely a sign of the winter just as apples are to fall in Michigan. And just how we can go apple picking in Michigan, we went mikan picking here in Japan!
We started our New Year’s Celebration on New Year’s Eve with a soba noodle dinner. I’ve been told that it’s a tradition to have soba noodles on New Year’s Eve and udon noodles for New Year’s dinner. The long noodles represent longevity and a long prosperous year to come. Also, soba noodles easily break.Â This can represent any misfortune you’ve experienced throughout the year, that it can now break and you can let it go.
When I was reading up on Japan before my first visit 12 years ago to meet Aya’s parents, I learned that having KFC for Christmas dinner was a thing. Really? KFC is a thing in Japan!? Yes, it is. Something about a wonderful marketing campaign from 1974, but I won’t bore you with the details here.