Thanksgiving in Japan

It is the beginning of “Thanksgiving week” at home in the US, and people there are getting ready to launch the holiday season with the first big family gathering/ holiday/ food fest. We won’t be there for the Thanksgiving holiday… we will be here in Tokyo, where the 4th Thursday of November is just another day of the work week.

They do have a “Thanksgiving” holiday (of sorts) here. It is called Labor Thanksgiving Day, and in Japan it is celebrated every year on November 23rd. This year, that holiday falls on the Friday after Thanksgiving. Labor Thanksgiving is a national holiday that was established after World War II, and replaces an earlier traditional harvest festival. It was established to celebrate labor and production, and to give thanks for workers. They don’t usually celebrate it with a big feast of turkey and trimmings, but it is a nice holiday off work and school.


In my supermarket this week, I found a freezer full of turkeys! So I guess some people here do plan on making a turkey for dinner, although is is definitely not a Japanese tradition. I am afraid it won’t work for us, however, since all we have in our small apartment kitchen is a cook-top and fish grill (broiler).


IMG_0191No canned pumpkin for pumpkin pie either. We do have Japanese pumpkins here… small green-skinned pumpkins that are delicious when stewed and eaten in Japanese curry. But alas, again, no oven in which to bake a pie. Mashed potatoes would be possible, and green bean casserole could possibly be cooked in the microwave, if I could manage to gather all the ingredients. But no bread baking without an oven…


No fireplace in our apartment, so no crackling fire to snuggle up in front of to watch football with family and friends after the big meal. Of course, we could find a You Tube virtual fireplace for a little bit of seasonal atmosphere… with the added advantage of never needing to scoop out the ashes! Our “American Thanksgiving Day” will be just another workday for us.

And… on our Japanese Labor Thanksgiving holiday, we will be heading to Paris where my husband is scheduled for meetings next week. The long holiday weekend will be very different for us, traveling to yet another country that doesn’t celebrate Thanksgiving Day:  no turkey, no football, and no Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade.

But no matter…  we happily embrace the culture of our temporary adopted country, and the varied cultures of the countries we are privileged to visit. Life is about collecting experiences, after all. And as much as we miss our family, and the traditions we have established with them for so many years, we are very thankful for the experiences we have had while living here in Japan.

We think of our home and our family, and miss many things about “home” — especially during the holidays. So, to all of you, you and yours, friends and family… may you experience a Happy (and thankful) Thanksgiving.

Think of us, and eat another slice of pumpkin pie!


IMG_2732*** Extra cultural tidbit…    Look at what I found in the supermarket next to the sake. The Japanese says “Fugu fins.” Fugu are pufferfish. Certain parts of the pufferfish contain a lethal poison, and not preparing it correctly — removing the toxic portions without contaminating the edible parts — can result in death. Sushi chefs must complete several years of rigorous training before they can serve fugu.

These fins (not a toxic part of the fish) have been grilled and dried. They are used to make “Hirezake” — the fin is placed in a cup of heated sake, and allowed to steep. This imparts a smoky (and I would also say, a somewhat “fishy”) flavor to the sake — lol. Yes… I have tried it. Not really a favorite of mine, but some people apparently find it appealing. 498 Yen for enough fugu fins to serve all your holiday guests!



Published by


My husband and I were both born and raised in Kansas, but for the past 20+ years we have been living in Atlanta, Georgia. Now, with our children grown and out of the house, we have the opportunity to spend two years living in Tokyo. My husband will be working with the Japanese counterpart to his American company. UPDATE 2023... After 4-1/2 years in Tokyo, we returned to Atlanta. Now we are heading to London for a three year job assignment!

One thought on “Thanksgiving in Japan”

  1. In France Thanksgiving isn’t any sort of holiday. No turkey, no ingredients for cornbread stuffing or green bean casserole. But just as a state of mind – so grateful to you for your humor and insight living the expat life!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s