You're pushing your shopping cart down the aisle at Kasumi Store, 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. The International Christmas Worship Service at Tsukuba Gakuen Church (behind the gas station across from Daiei) will be held Christmas Sunday afternoon (Dec. 22th) at 2:30 pm., followed by refreshments in the Christian Center next door. The regular 10:30 a.m. 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 6:00 p.m. featuring a well trained choir (joined by a not-so-well trained everybody else on the Hallelujah Chorus). It will be followed by Christmas caroling at several locations. There is also a special organ concert on Sunday, Dec. 15 at 4 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. 15th 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 Sat. Dec. 14 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. 22, Spanish Mass 3:00 pm; Monday, Dec. 23, Children's International Christmas Mass at 3 pm; Tuesday, Dec. 24, Japanese Christmas Mass 7:00 pm and International Christmas Mass 11:00 pm. 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.. With the exception of the Christmas Day and New Year's Day Japanese masses, there will be a social gathering in the parish hall following each mass. 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: There will be a bilingual Christmas Eve service at 7:00 pm followed by a pot luck. The New Year's Day service is bilingual at 2:00 am. 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 special children's Christmas program including a Christmas movie will be held Dec. 15 at 2:00 p.m. A bilingual Christmas service will be held on Dec. 22 at 10:30 am. 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 feature a special Christmas Concert by a well-known singer, Yuri Mori on Dec. 21st (Sat) from 3:00 - 4:30 pm. They will have two Christmas services on Dec. 22nd at 10:45 am and 7 pm. Their candlelight service on Christmas Eve will begin at 7 pm. For further information, call 22-2244.
"Baha no Mori" (Bach Grove), located at Tokodai 2-7-9 (tel. 47-8696), will celebrate the Christmas/ Holiday season with several different activities. The "Baha no Mori" Community Center will be featuring a Christmas Special called "Christmas Fantasy" from Dec. 21 - 25 with doors opening at 1:30 each day. The multimedia slide presentation of the Christmas story, using world-famous art pictures, together with a short play using slides entitled "The Three Kings Of Amahl", begin at 2 pm with a second showing at 3:30. Also included in the program is an organ mini-concert. The entrance fee is 500 yen for adults and 300 yen for children. Likewise, a special Christmas Organ Concert is scheduled for Sunday afternoon, Dec. 15 at 3:30 pm in the Bach Grove Memorial Hall. Needless to say, a number of Bach pieces will be featured on organ together with pieces performed by the hand bell choir and singers. Reservations for this performance are required, with tickets costing 2500 yen.
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 in'SANTA'ty!.
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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