In the end I actually did it! I was able to make 1400 christmas cards. I handed them out to all my students dressed in a Santa suit. Due to the fact that I had blond hair and blue eyes, I was told that I was the best Santa that anyone in Shibukawa had seen. Apperantly the board of education heard that I was a good Santa. On Tuesday they called me up and asked me to be Santa at another pre-school in town. Now, Japan is in the midst of being hit hard by a Norovirus epidemic, and the younger the child, the worse it is. Some kids have been out of school for 2 and a half weeks. Well, the final pre-school I went to was apperantly the hardest hit, because, if I understood the guy who called me from the board of education correctly, there was actually fatality due to Norovirus recently. Being Santa was the least I could do...
Anyway, on Friday I set off for Hawaii. By setting off for Hawaii, I mean I started my trek to Narita airport. First stop was Manabu's house. Sadly, due to a communication error, when I got to Manabu's house he wasn't there, so I sat outside for a couple of hours until his girlfriend came by and took me out to dinner. Then his dad came by. In other words, Manabu's house was quite full. Me, my luggage, Manabu, his girlfriend and his father.
The next morning we got up and went to the Emperor's Birthday. We met Takaya and Koki at Tokyo Station. Takaya, as it turns out, has just gotten a job as an announcer for Yomiuri Television, and he starts work later this year! He was elated. Anyway, I don't think any of them had ever been to the Imperial Palace before, so it was a new experience for all of us. Speaking of new experiences, it is not every day you see this many Ultra-Nationalist vans in the same place. I am blissfully ignorant of the exact beliefs of the Japanese Ultra-Nationalists, but they don't seem very friendly. As I snapped this photo my companions exclaimed "don't take photos!"
Here is our party. Takaya, Koki, Manabu and his girlfriend Hanako. And some older gentleman in a blue coat.
Here is a part of the crowd. In total, I would guess 60-100 thousand people attended.
Here we are entering the palace. I have never seen so many police in my entire life. There were all the regular levels of security (bag check, pat down, x-ray, radiation detection) but the really amazing thing was the final level of security. Just before entering the palace gates there were about 40 very well trained looking plain clothes policemen who just stared at every single face that went in, looking for any suspicious behavior at all.
Here is the press corps.
Me in front of the Imperial Veranda. We got very close. Within 20 meters I suspect.
The Imperial Family. Now I have never been impressed by celebrity. I met many famous people and don't care in the least. I thought the Japanese Emperor would be the same. But when he rounded the corner I was filled with excitement. There was something about the Emperor or the way he was presented that was very exciting and mysterious.
He spoke but I understood nothing that he said. His Japanese was too polite and far too slow for me to really make sense of it. Nobody else understood either, so no loss.
Lot of Japanese flags, huh? Strangely, I did not feel out of place being there.
And here are Takaya, Koki and after lunch in the Marunochi Building.
Then I flew to Hawaii. Surpprisingly there was no crowd in Narita at all. Got to Hawaii, slept, then went to the Wessel's Christmas party. Look at the food. Slight reverse culture shock when I saw the quantity.
So, here is 69's the next day. Almost no waves, even though it was Christmas Eve Day.
Here is the tunnel I made for our model train out of Christmas presents.
And the train.
Went to the Bleechers for Christmas-eve. The fireplace was damaged in the earthquake, so they improvised.
The tree on Christmas Day.
Grandpa, me and Grandma on Christmas day. This is the only picture I have ever seen when two flashes went off at the exact same time.
Christmas morning breakfast. Bacon and eggs, as always. But this time, since I didn't cook the eggs, they were actually good.
Then the Kona McManuses and Daniels came over.
I have always wanted to get some pictures of Santa at the beach, so I donned the suit.
A note to all. Swimming in a Santa suit is dangerous. I nearly died. Swimming in heavy clothes I can do, but the beard picks of water like a sponge and makes it almost impossible to breathe. I had to ditch the suit in the middle of the ocean. Such a shame.
I was not the only one to almost drown. Lisa had a go at it too.
Here is Ryan Kayaking.
Beautiful day, isn't it? I was a little disappointed that we couldn't surf on Christmas.
Here is dinner.
And finally, for all of my readers who don't know what Apple Pie is, this is Apple Pie.
This is Pumpkin Pie.
And the cookie in the foreground is Gingerbread. All three are traditional Christmas deserts.
Still in Hawaii, enjoying the warm weather. Happy Holidays to all!