I have ordered a Christmas cake. SHOCK! One of Japan's Christmas traditions is the Christmas cake. Not fruit cake, not a Yule log cake, a white sponge cake with lots of whipped cream frosting (not butter cream... Too sweet for Japanese) and 5 or 6 whole strawberries plopped on top. AND at an exorbitant price!!! This is a tradition I have avoided. My kids never had a Christmas cake. I made cookies, I decorated the house, I bought presents for each child, but no Christmas cake. My neighbors sometimes felt sorry for my kids and would bring over half their left-over cake just so that Takumi and Leiya could experience a "real" Christmas.
So why this year? Because I stand in front of the Japanese sweet shop every morning and at Christmas time they deliver Christmas cakes from their son's bakery in another city. (No not made of Japanese sweet beans!) I STRONGLY believe that we should support the local merchants rather than save a few dollars and buy the same thing at a large store. I know the super-stores provide lots of people with jobs and salaries and I am all for people shopping there (I do too!). But the small stores are struggling and the main streets in town are turning into ghost towns. "Shutter Street" as it is called here because so many shops have gone out of business.
When I go to my crosswalk every morning, I am met by open shutters, lighted display cases, grandma and grandpa washing windows and putting out banners and flags. They greet me with smiles. On Tuesday however, the sweet shop takes its regular day off and I come to the crosswalk to a dark shuttered store with a closed sign on it. What a letdown! My energy goes down a notch right then! How much more for the children coming to school every morning! We NEED that Japanese sweet shop on the corner!!! It is boosting morale and helping raise bright and happy children!!! Give them all the business we can!!!! So I happily paid out the normal $35 dollars and ordered a minuscule Christmas cake. On December 24th Tetsu and I will partake and give thanks for our friendly little corner sweet shop!
*****Another park. Yes, parks abound in Japan. I think it must be because there is so little private space and even if you own your own home the yards are tiny. Because we live in the country we have a fair plot of land but still... the width of the yard is only about a car wide and we can't park our two cars side by side. One car goes in, and the other comes in behind it. If the first car wants out then both Tetsu and I need to help shuffle cars. The rest of the small yard holds a picnic table and the dog house. That's it. So there you have the reason for all the park pictures.
Boy, Leiya sure doesn't look happy does she! I think she wanted to play on the slide and we had dragged her away to sit while Daddy fiddled with the tripod. And you know that means we took at least 12 pictures in different poses etc. "I wanna play!!!" Actually I don't think she could talk yet. In 1992 Takumi was 6 and Leiya 2.