12 Days of Christmas in Japan #5: market on your calendar
See all posts in this series via the '12days' tag.
Last December, I set myself a challenge: to visit as many Christmas markets as I could. I made it to 5, in the end: London, Dublin, Birmingham, Bristol, and Milton Keynes.
At first, I thought I wouldn't get to visit any in Japan this year. But I was happy to be wrong, as apparently there are loads in the Tokyo/Yokohama area. It'd be a bigger challenge to try and visit all of those.
This is partly because the Japanese idea of a 'Christmas market' is pretty tenuous. As is the 'German Christmas market'. It's an excuse to make more money. If there's space to knock a few chalets up and dole out warm wine, there'll be a market there for sure.
So I tried a couple of them out.
The one I want to tell you about is at Yokohama's Red Brick Warehouses (page in Japanese). Because, as tacky as the whole thing was, nothing's beaten it yet. It was as tack-tacular as Christmas should be.
First, to point out the painfully obvious, it looked nothing like the promo poster.
I went there the day it started, in late November. Tempted to go back solely for the ice rink, which hadn't yet opened at the time. The market's on until Christmas Day, unlike some which are dragging it out as far as mid January.
The weather wasn't exactly wintery when I was there. The sun was out, and beating down hard on our winter coats. They'd had to bring in snow to pack around the trees. And it was melting fast, hastened by little kids insistent on kicking it.
The overarching 'theme' of the market was apparently 'chuck in as many Christmas statues as possible'. Including one of Jesus Christ, which is fair enough but probably confuses things.
Amongst the Bratwursts, potato waffles, tiny bootfuls of red wine, and suspiciously jovial Santa effigies, I found 'fish and chips'. It's hard not to be sceptical, as the quality varies a lot. I've been served fish and crisps before.
The chips, I can't really fault. Not the wedges some places try and fob you off with. And they let you ladle on your own ketchup, so brownie points there. The fish... was battered well, but served as nuggets. With a blob of extra strong tartar on the side.
I left not quite sure what I'd just experienced. With "So this is Christmas, and what have you done..." echoing in my head.
The idea of going to a 'German Christmas market' in Japan is still weird. Mainly because this is, in fact, the closest you'll get to a 'Japanese Christmas market'. I've never been to anything else like it.
Come for the hot alcohol, stay for the bauble-covered culture clash.