I find myself writing this on the fourth Thursday of November, in Japan. Yet, back in the US it is still Wednesday…very weird. Well anyways, due to it being Thanksgiving, I wanted to share with you all a Japanese twist on Thanksgiving and my experience corporate leaders, diplomats, students, and international professionals at the Japanese – American Society of Osaka’s Thanksgiving Bash.There are three things I took away from this trip: always have business cards, corporate leaders and diplomats are incredibly….normal, and train rides after a few drinks are the most excruciating experiences in modern transportation.
Anyways, who does not love Thanksgiving? You cannot beat it. A smorgasbord of delicious food, a host of various drinks, and the friends and family that you love. Well…ok. Maybe sometimes you’re stuck with those family members that drive you insane but hopefully they’re the minority.
Thanksgiving has always been synonymous with United States’ culture, so you can imagine my surprise when I learned that there was a Thanksgiving event dinner taking place in Osaka. The event in question was being put on by the Japan-America Society of Osaka and had a considerable entrance fee. Luckily, they were offering deals of 2000 yen for JETs in the Kansai region. That would be me :).This Thanksgiving bash was held on the third Thursday of November for some odd reason. This actually worked out well for me since I happened to be at a 2 day JET conference, in central Nara, at this point. Normally, getting to Osaka from my rural home of Totsukawa would take about 4 hours but due to the conference I was able to rush to the central Yamato Yagi station in Nara and get to Osaka’s Umeda station within only 1 hour. Damn, it felt nice.
The party itself was held at the Umeda Hilton Hotel and a free hotel bus took my friends and I there. Not quite a limousine, but it did the job. Once we arrived, we were ushered into the heart of the hotel, up a few flights of escalators and to the main ballroom for the event. Let me just say this, they know how to throw parties in Japan. Quirky Thanksgiving signs hanging everywhere, cut out turkeys, and of course food!In the center of the room lied two rows of tables that contained all the food of the evening. Dish after dish of chicken parmesan sandwiches, turkey carving stations, cream of onion soup, legitimate pumpkin pie with whole pumpkin still inside, and so much more. Being in Japan, there had to be a Japanese twist and as a result, there was even sashimi and fried fish to choose from.
Before we could eat, however, we had to deal with some formalities. True to Japanese form, there were a few speeches to get through. One such speech came from the head of the US Consulate in Osaka. He was even given the joy of carving the first turkey for everyone! He’s a very fun and very nice man. As the meal finally opened up, there was no order, no lines, just a mad rush to get food and squeeze yourself in. It was entertaining. However, at this point we realized that they had limitless drinks as well. Bottomless Maker’s Mark, bottomless wine, bottomless tea, bottomless beer, you name it. It was truly a thing to be thankful for….eh…see what I did there.
Anyways, it was a great night and I ended up meeting people from all over the Kansai region. Businessmen in event planning, journalism, marketing, nautical engineering, insurance, and more. In fact, it was here that I learned that I desperately need to get some business cards made for myself. I think I collected 10 or more cards from people and felt so sad I couldn’t reciprocate the gesture.Oh well, like I said, it wasn’t a big deal because everyone was just living off the vibe of Thanksgiving and happy to just meet new people and mingle. Some of the professionals I met would talk to us about fun places they’ve been in the world or how much they hate this type of beer compared to another and pretty normal things like that. These people are incredibly accomplished and they were just like me…disliking bud light. Oh did I mention the Japanese brewery, Asahi Brewery, sponsored the event? Well, they did and god bless them.
Besides the established professionals, other JETs from around Kansai and even exchange students currently studying in Japan happened to be at the event. It was a total blast meeting people from Sweden, Canada, Hong Kong, Australia and many other places at a Japanese Thanksgiving dinner.
Sounds weird reading that, right? It’s even weirder typing it.
By the end of the night we were all ushered out and had to head home. A collective sigh came across my group as we realized we had an hour or so journey before getting back to Nara. But the organizer of the event came to the rescue when he started grabbing decorations his company used for the event and let me have them for my Thanksgiving event in Nara. Such a great man and such a great way to end the night, I’d definitely do it again.
My next post will feature some of those decorations in all their glory down here in the deep rural mountain village of Totsukawa, while my friends and I host a Thanksgiving dinner on actual Thanksgiving weekend! Look out for that post next week!