Christmas Journal 12/20/2015

Under the mistletoe at the Osaka German Christmas market

Christmas markets are one of our family Christmas traditions. It started with our first visit to the Budapest, Hungary market, which in my opinion, is the best in the world. Nadia is a huge fan of Christmas markets. One Christmas we went to all the markets in Vienna. Austria and Germany are the most fanatical cultures I have seen about Christmas.

The center piece “tree” at the Osaka Christmas market

Last night we ventured downtown to the Osaka Christmas market in the Umeda Sky Plaza. Cultural public events are held there all year long. The city contracted a German Christmas market company, well, many of the employees doing sales and running the attractions were European. We didn’t choose the best night, a Saturday before Christmas, so it was quite crowded. By the end of our time there, it was clearing out, so it was better. That is one bad thing about Japan – too many people! The depopulation occurring now in my view is a good thing. They need more space here and with an island, you can’t find any. Anyway, we had a lot of laughs with the kids, running through the nearby park, drinking mulled wine, spinning on the carousel, and listening to Christmas carols. It was a nice cold evening and the mulled wines were perfect.

Today I had a day with the boys. Ocean has a sleepover at her friend’s tonight and they are going to Star Wars tomorrow. Nadia is still not feeling well, so the two Os and I went and played basketball. After watching the Pistons dramatic 4OT win over the Bulls, the boys are even more enthusiastic about hoops! I love it. They insist on going to the gym everyday, and I am happy to oblige (video above). After making some lunch for everyone, we then went for a hike up trail #8 in the Minoh quasi national park. We drove to the Katsuo-ji temple and parked the car in the entrance area to the hike. The trail goes over a high ridge to follow a creek through a valley to to another paved road in the park. We made it most of the way and turned around. The best part of hiking with my sons is our talks while we are walking. We played charades and had loads of laughs.

Oliver on trail #8

The forests in Japan are not diverse and much of the trees are planted. We saw tsubaki (tea family) trees in flower (‘the rose of winter’) and the ubiquitous sugi  (Japanese cedar), although it is not a cedar but a single-species genus of conifer. It is the national tree of Japan. We also heard the call of the brown-eared bulbul.

Cool path markers in Japan

I finished the day with a pleasant dinner with Nadia at our favorite local sushi restaurant. I love seafood and have a new appreciation for sushi. A blog post is coming soon.

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