Monday, December 19, 2011

Yamate Christmas Around the World 2011

Christmas Count Down

With Bossy Explorer’s threat of taking me off her blog roll because I have been silent for too long … and the gentle nudges and encouragement from my friends and family I’m going to attempt to pick up this blog once more and figured what better time than Christmas? It’s one of my favorite seasons and it seems everywhere I turn I find inspiration.

Why silent for so long? Good question and no easy answer. 2011 has been a particularly challenging year for many of us stationed here in Japan. My experience, my family’s experience, in no way compares to the loss and devastation of those living in the region of Tohoku. Nevertheless, the events post March 11th rocked my world both literally and figuratively. The resulting evacuation – or voluntary departure as those here in the military prefer it to be called – made me refocus, realign – a reset button was hit on my internal compass and what I realized is that, like Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz “there’s no place like home” and home for me is clearly Norfolk. To say that our family has a support group there is an understatement. There are more than a few blog entries to be posted about our experiences during our nearly 5 months of being unexpectedly stateside but I am not ready to post those – not yet.

The focus for the moment is here and now. Christmas is less than a week away and so here’s the first in my series of holiday inspiration found or created here in Japan.

Christmases Around the World

Each year a section of Yokohama known as Yamate celebrates Christmases Around the World. Yamate is where the Westerners were permitted to live once the ports of Japan were opened to the rest of the world in 1856. There are still some western style homes there, built by successful foreign businessmen and diplomats. Each year different countries take on the task of decorating these homes.

When I returned from the states Bossy Explorer and I sat down together and made out our bucket list for Japan. At the top of both our lists was a revisit to Yamate. I’ve had this daytrip marked on my calendar for months. Another friend joined us, always open to an adventure outside those gates, she was game for whatever we had in mind. The forecast was grim – 40 degrees and rain – but knowing this was the only date we could coordinate with our schedules I put out the message unless it was typhoon conditions we were a-go. I wanted to see those homes again. Wanted to have a taste of holiday decorations, wanted some more of that inspiration.

The home decorated by France had to be my favorite but Berrick Hall came in a close second with the wreaths wrapped in felt and yarn with the very interesting placement of balls or decorations. Ideas of what do to with leftover yarn started to pop into our heads. We were also fascinated by the clever use of sticks with little balls attached to the end of them and fed into a beautiful cyclamen plant. This is why I get outside those gates ... who would have thought to do something so simple and yet it adds such an interesting holiday detail. I also loved the "bonsai" christmas decoration and thought now there's something Mom and Dad could do with all those Georgia Pine needles! 

It would have been oh, so easy to have stayed home that day. The miserable weather, a very good reason to hunker down inside, but I am glad we did not. Each home offered up a plethora of holiday ideas and of course inspiration.