How Canadian and US expats celebrate Thanksgiving in Japan

Originally published at:


Canadians do it 6 weeks ago…


The simplest way to explain it to non-Americans is a harvest festival. Almost everybody has a harvest festival, except Canada. They have hockey or something.

EDIT: Wouldn’t a link to the article be cool?


Is it important that the Japanese understand Thanksgiving? That they do halloween and christmas is above-and-beyond the call of duty w/r/t understanding western holidays. Maybe the quotes are out of context, but it seems weird to expect Japan to know or be particularly interested in Thanksgiving, especially considering there is not a single thing I know about any Japanese holidays (nor probably any not in the western tradition, come to think of it.) I saw a “weird japan” internet report about a penis parade for the children, once. there’s a cherry blossom festival, too, maybe?

anyway, @Boundegar and everyone:

and I guess they did a feature on this once before, because this 2012 Tofugu article was the first search result


Crap, did I get it wrong.

I always just explain that it’s like the Styx song, except not to a roboto.


Yes, I found that strange, too. Everything about Thanksgiving beyond it being a kind of harvest festival is specific to America. Japanese people probably don’t care much about the 4th of July either.

Even our German retailers who would love nothing more than importing another American holiday leave that one alone.


A little off-topic :s/Thanksgiving/Hockey Morning"

My brother wrote the hyperlinked article.

In Autumn 2014, my friend, who knew us both from our Ottawa days, wrote a followup.

The Halloween jack-o-lanterns in Japan, if anyone’s interested, start appearing in the stores in the last week of September.

it’s just so quiet here, you know? I miss the lively distraction and happy cacophony

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Now you have me reconsidering my planned Festivus in Yokohama.


This one?

Domo arigato misuta Turkato
Mata au hi made
Domo arigato misuta Turkato
Himitsu wo shiritai

You’re wondering who I am-Pilgrim or mannequin
With parts made in england, I am the Turkey Man

I’ve got a secret I’ve been hiding under my skin
My heart is human, my giblets boiling, brain M.A.C.Y.
So if you see me acting strangely, don’t be surprised
I’m just a Turkey who needed someone, and somewhere to hide
To keep me alive, just keep me alive
Somewhere to hide to keep me alive

I’m not a Turky without emotions, I’m not what you see
I’ve come to help you with your dinner, so we can be free
I’m not a hero, I’m not a great chef, forget what you know
I’m just a Turkey whose circumstances went beyond his control
Beyond my control, we all need control
I need control, we all need control

I am the modern bird, who hides under a hat.
So no one else can see my true identity

Domo arigato, Mr. Turkato, domo, domo
Domo arigato, Mr. Turkato, domo, domo
Domo arigato, Mr. Turkato
Domo arigato, Mr. Turkato
Domo arigato, Mr. Turkato
Domo arigato, Mr. Turkato

Thank you very much, Mr. Turkato
For doing the holiday nobody wants to
And thank you very much, Mr. Turkato
For helping me escape from my family
Thank you, thank you, thank you
I want to thank you, please, thank you, oh yeah

The problem’s plain to see, too much Food you see
Entrees to save our lives. Entrees go to our thighs.

The time has come at last
To throw away this hat
Now everyone can see
My true identity
I’m Santa! Santa! Santa! Santa!


Two words: tiny ovens.


Some of the cafes and restaurants here in China will have a Thanksgiving themed meal, (US T-day, they ignore Canada). Probably aimed more at ex-pats, but I think they get a number of curious Chinese willing to try this exotic food.


Canada objects.


It’s not like we’re trying to make the Japanese dress up as Pilgrims and Indians. But if you were an American abroad, your friends might ask you why you’re searching for a turkey, or fraction thereof. I suppose you could just say “secret American project.”


Wanna know what I’ve done every year for Thanksgiving since I moved to Japan?



Guess I’m too far under the radar as an expat to have been considered for this.

Almost 20 years here and many times I’ve asked Japanese people at work or in my neighborhood about particular holidays: “mountain day”, “culture day”, “ocean day”, “labor thanksgiving day” (today oddly enough), etc. and no one much knows or cares. The only one that is self evident is the Emperor’s Birthday (Dec 23rd). I often send him a birthday card. Never got one back though.

Confirmed. I put up a little desk flag on the 4th and my coworkers asked why. None of em had heard of the reason.

The great thing about Japan picking up Halloween retail is finding imported kosher candies at my local supermarket! This year I managed to get enough of the little Palmers chocolate peanut butter cups to last me a few months.

Actually not a bad article.


It’s not important that Japanese understand Thanksgiving, but I spent two Thanksgivings in Tokyo and… celebrating a holiday that is about coming together and sharing traditions of family and food, while being completely unable to make any of the traditional food, 8 time zones away from family, and in a culture as insular as Japan… It’s a tough one. It’s amazing how alone one can feel in a city of 40 million people. So, yes, there’s a bit of desire to have someone understand what you’re missing out on.

I ended up going to the local curry rice place and getting a giant plate with a chicken katsu, telling myself it was turkey, gravy, and stuffing. And yeah, that’s as sad as it sounds.


In Britain, there’s probably the same level of (dis)interest/awareness.

We know it’s something about settlers, but not the original lot in Jamestown, meeting an Indian Native American called Black Friday, and learning how to farm. They then killed him some time afterwards. Dressing up as Abraham Lincoln in a stovepipe hat is somehow involved, as well. But mostly we know it’s another excuse for Americans to eat more food and buy stuff.


And I seem to recall, getting stuck at an airport in a blizzard is a tradition within some families.

We really should have it as a festival in the UK. We’d just need to change it slightly - to the ThankGodThey’veGone Day :wink:


You forget that in the UK we celebrate ThankGodThey’veGone Day after Christmas, which is our traditional time for family get-togethers.


We don’t seem to have had as much trouble in China. Maybe there were more American expats at our school, but we were usually able to source a turkey or two and have a big meal together. I can’t remember whether we usually did it on the Friday, but one of the Americans usually had a recording of a recent football match that was on in the background. Ovens were a problem, but a few of us had some fairly large electric ones that could fit a smallish turkey or part of a larger one. We’d usually have two or three going at the same time, then have a big buffet-style meal in the evening. I think the people in our school were all familiar with it, but Chinese people who weren’t learning English probably wouldn’t have had any idea what it was about.