Assuming you're one of the many foreigners who will be stuck in your home away from home during the holidays, please read on. If you are one of the lucky ones to have your pricy reservations for a trip home, then Bon Voyage!
Imagine that you're pushing your shopping cart down the aisle at Daiei, humming along with the Muzak-to-shop-by wafting down at you from the PA system: "I'll be home for Christmas... " when the depressing thought hits you that this year, you won't be home!!! Before you slide over the edge into a Blue Christmas, consider some opportunities which may help to make the season bright.
In addition to various public concerts and exhibits, churches in Tsukuba are hosting special celebrations. Various churches in the Tsukuba area are joining together for a Shimin Christmas (Community Christmas) in Nova Hall on Tuesday, Dec. 7 at 7 pm. An international husband and wife duet of Abraham Kist and Sayuri Okazaki will be providing much of the music, and there will be a number of groups performing, including an excellent handbell choir. There will be translations of the Japanese portions into English over headphones. Childcare will be available, but the YMCA needs to know ahead of time. Please call them at 52-4128.
The International Christmas Worship Service at Tsukuba Gakuen Church (behind the gas station across from Daiei) will be held Christmas Sunday afternoon (Dec. 19th) at 2:30 pm, followed by refreshments in the Christian Center next door. The regular 10:30 am Japanese service (which is translated into English over earphones every Sunday) will be followed by a Christmas luncheon with lots of good food. Visitors are welcome. Also, there will be a Christmas Eve Candlelight Service Dec. 24th at 7:00 pm featuring a well-trained choir. It will be followed by Christmas caroling at several locations beginning at 8:15 pm. There is also a free organ and vocal concert on Sunday, Dec. 12 at 4 pm featuring soprano Junko Nakata and organist Yoshiko Ueda. The church organ is a work in progress, a completely handmade, pipe organ that is an incredible story in and of itself. While a high energy physicist by profession, Toshiyuki Mitsuhashi has put a lot of high energy into his hobby of organ building, and he has constructed one of the premier organs in all of Japan. It is well worth hearing. Another event of interest to parents of younger children will be a church school Christmas party with Santa on Saturday, Dec. 18 at 2 pm. For more information, call 55-1907.
If you are a bit homesick for Christmas lights (or if you come from a country where that isn't such a tradition, and just want to see them), the Tsukuba Christian Center/YMCA is decorated with thousands of colored bulbs, including lighted angels, etc. There will also be an open house every evening from Dec. 19th through 24th from 6 to 9 pm with various goodies and drinks prepared for those who would like to come and experience a little of the Christmas spirit. On Christmas Eve, the open house will begin immediately following the candlelight service. On Saturday Dec. 11 at 6 pm, there will be an international Christmas dinner at the Tsukuba Christian Center that is open to all. Turkey will be provided, but a side dish (or bread, drinks, etc.) to add to the pot luck food would be appreciated.
The Tsukuba Catholic Church in Matsushiro has the following Christmas/New Year's season schedule for the international community: Sunday, Dec. 19, 3 pm, Spanish Mass followed by a party; Tuesday, Dec. 21 10 am, Children's International Christmas Mass and party; Friday, Dec. 24, Japanese Christmas Mass 7:00 pm and International Christmas Mass 12:00 am midnight. On Christmas Day, there is a Japanese Mass at 10:00 am. A New Year's Eve International Mass begins at the stroke of midnight, and a New Year's Day Mass in Japanese begins at 10 am. For information, call Father Donegan at 36-1723.
The Nozomi Evangelical Lutheran Church in Tsuchiura (Komatsu 3-23-27) also has special holiday programs, including the following: Christmas Sunday will be held Dec. 26, with a bilingual service at 10:30 am. There will also be a children's Christmas program on Dec. 19 at 2 pm. The bilingual Christmas Eve service is at 7:30 pm and is followed by a pot luck. The New Year's Day service is at 2:00 pm. The church is also beautifully decorated with lights and a nativity scene that is well worth seeing. It is located a little over 1 km south of Tsuchiura Station on the edge of a steep hill overlooking the city. For further information, call Glenn Hieb at (0298) 21-3578.
The Tsuchiura Christian Church has the following activities: A bilingual Christmas service will be held on Dec. 19 at 10:30 am. A special Christmas program for both children and adults will be held Dec. 25 at 2:00 pm. For more information, contact Paul or Faith Axton at 56-2167.
Tsuchiura Megumi Church, located near the junction of Tsuchiura-Gakuen Sen and the 6-go Bypass will have three Christmas services on Dec. 19th at 9 am, 10:45 am and 7 pm. Their candlelight service on Christmas eve will begin at 7:00 pm. Christmas caroling is from 8 pm. For further information, call 22-2244.
The newly opened Assemblies of God church will feature a Christmas program on the 19th at 10:30 am followed by a pot-luck. Activities at this church are mostly in English. For further information, call Pastor Richard Swan at 36-0993.
Baha no Mori (Bach Grove), located at Tokodai 2-7-9 (tel. 47-8696), will celebrate the Christmas/ Holiday season with several different activities: On Dec. 12 at 3:30 pm, there will be a Christmas concert for organ, recorder, a soprano soloist and the Bach Grove Choir, with tickets costing 3000 yen. On Dec. 19 at 3:30 pm, a Christmas Fantasy will be presented with slides and live music (narration in Japanese). Cost 1000 yen (800 yen children). On the 23rd, from 6 to 8 pm, there will be a banquet with a home concert featuring a variety of music. Bach Grove members are charged 1500 yen (700 yen for children), with double that for guests.
If it's the secular shopping hoopla that you miss, you'll love getting yourself trampled while checking out the seasonal offerings at the department stores. The real stampede, however, is in Tokyo, and for merry masochistic madness, a day at Akihabara or Harajuku is unsurpassed as pure holiday inSANTAty!
Christmas cakes have become a Japanese tradition as well established as New Year's omochi. Our advice, however, is to go easy on these white, strawberry-topped concoctions, sweet enough to give Santa diabetes. You may well be invited to one or more bonenkai (forget-the-year parties), where you will be enticed to down enough beer and sake to make you forget not only the year, but your name and how to get home. While we naively hope for sobriety in this season, we realize that there will be some plastered gaijin here and there. If you end up being one, don't drive! The Tsukuba gendarmes (police) are lurking in wait to lift your driver's license.
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