Christmas in Japan
Christmas in Japan is a really big deal. Across the nation, Christmas trees are brimming with decorations, girls are dressed in sexy Santa outfits, and thousands of sparkling lights convey the warm message that the holidays are finally upon us and it’s now okay to forget all about that energy-conservation nonsense. If you’re a guy with a steady girlfriend, you meet her for dinner, or if you’re married, you wait in line at Kentucky Fried Chicken to take home a scrumptious cardboard bucket full of chicken parts. And if you’re single, you try to balance the demands of the half dozen women who just texted you out of the blue all wanting to go on some sort of romantic Christmas date. The holidays create some real scheduling issues, let me tell you.
I’ve noticed that Christmas means different things to different people, like for example presents, cakes, or tiny reindeer. Those are all solid choices. There’s even a whole Jesus component, which apparently causes some kind of yearly “war” in America, despite the fact that everyone agrees infant baby Jesus wasn’t even born on December 25th. So that’s strange. And why are the reindeer tiny anyway? You’d think if you had a whole sleigh full of toys you’d want the biggest reindeer available. Well whatever. Anyway Christmas in Japan is more about shopping and dining than anything religious, and it’s not even a holiday. It’s like, Merry Wednesday.
A Hangover for all Seasons
So I woke up Thursday morning and had to go to work but for some reason I couldn’t see out of my left eye and my head hurt so bad that I thought maybe I’d just try to shave while lying in bed. You know, sometimes even the greatest ideas don’t work out too well, and now I have a bunch of water and shaving cream all over my sheets. I really gotta get an electric razor. Then I couldn’t find my pants, but that was only because I’d aired them out on the balcony railing the previous night after this Christmas date with some girl I didn’t even know and they’d blown away in like a surprise typhoon. Stupid windy country. Now all of a sudden I’ve gotta be a meteorologist too? Jeez, it’s all very complicated, living in Japan. Anyway, somewhere five miles away some homeless guy just found a pair of brand-new khakis and he’s like Hello, merry Christmas to me. So that was my good deed for the season.
Then midway through the shaving process, some survival instinct kicked in and I suddenly decided it would be good to crawl into my kitchen and begin rummaging through the cabinets for something to rehydrate my desiccated brain. I possess all the major Japanese hangover cures for just such occasions, so I’ll give you a quick rundown of the wisdom I’ve gleaned from making the exact same mistake thousands of times.
Famous Japanese Hangover Cures
1. Ukon. This is what the Japanese call turmeric. It’s the stuff that makes curry yellow, and it tastes exactly like dirt. I drink it as a tea every day because they say it’s good for the liver and because I apparently like the taste of dirt. But nobody else does, probably because they’ve got taste buds, so I can’t really recommend it as a refreshment. Anyway, the Japanese consume masses of the stuff as a hangover preventative and cure, in tea, capsules, and these little aluminum cans called Ukon no Chikara. I’ve tried it in every form over the years and I can say with great confidence that it has absolutely no effect whatsoever upon a hangover. Zero. If anything, it might even make it a bit worse. Anyway, I still drank a big cup of it, I don’t know why. Tiny reindeer.
2. Shijimi Miso soup. This is miso soup with lots of little clams that are supposed to be restorative and good for the liver. Why mini clams would benefit your liver, and not, say, your appendix I’ve no idea, but whatever. I mean, when is a hot cup of broth not good for a hangover? Never. So it’s good, is what I mean. It’ll make you feel about one percent better. So maybe if you drank like a hundred cups of the stuff, you’d be cured. Actually, you’d probably be literally cured from all the salt, but anyway, it’s not terrible, so I drank a steaming cupful.
3. Shichimi. This is seven-spice powder. A lot of countries associate spicy foods with hangover cures, and Japan is no different. I think theoretically if you ate enough shichimi, your body’s natural endorphins would kick in to block the searing pain in your mouth and thus your hangover, but it never seems to work out that way. Anyway, it tastes good in shijimi miso soup, and it won’t make you feel any worse, so that’s almost a plus.
4. Umeboshi. These are pickled plums. They’re super tart and salty and taste approximately like somebody tried to cross a peach with an olive. They do nothing for a hangover though. But they’re not horrible, so I ate a couple.
5. Pocari Sweat. This is just Japanese Gatorade with a hilarious name. It’s pretty much useless for a hangover, but it’ll get your kidneys back online, so that’s a good thing, I guess. I drank half a bottle and laid on the cold floor for a bit.
6. Persimmons. These are called kaki in Japanese, I guess because Japanese people like to give food hilarious names. Kaki are deep orange and shiny and look like they should taste really good, but actually they don’t. Japanese folks say they’re beneficial for a hangover, but actually they’re not. What they are is like eating a really old apple. I guess maybe if they make you hurl up some booze that’s a good thing, but otherwise they’re worthless. I ate a few bites of dried kaki along with some more Pokari Sweat and felt decidedly worse. Then I laid on the floor some more.
7. A couple of Alka-Seltzer that you brought from the United States like six years ago. Okay, this isn’t even remotely Japanese but it does actually have a positive effect, probably because it’s freaking medicine and not some leftover thing Japanese granny had lying around her kitchen. It can make your hangover go from deathly horrible to plain horrible, and even then you’ll still feel like you’re dying, but at least it’s better than trying to snarl down a persimmon.
So I’m not an expert on very many things, but if there’s one thing the nation of Japan agrees upon it’s that Ken Seeroi knows hangovers. You know how some people get up and have a cup of coffee or a piece of toast? Yeah, well I get up and have a hangover. It’s just my thing, like a hobby. And I’ve tried every hangover cure known to man only to reach the conclusion that—-Anybody who says they have some cure is either lying or just didn’t have enough to drink. Like next time, drink two bottles of tequila and then try your miracle cure. Then if that still works, okay, well, drink four bottles of tequila. Okay, don’t really do that because you’d probably get arrested or die and then I’d feel all guilty, but my point is that at some point, nothing’s gonna work. You just gotta gut it out, ingest a bunch of happy placebos, and pray for Santa to bring you a new brain. Merry Christmas. But since I knew I could sleep at my desk, I found some slacks in the laundry pile, gave them and my body a quick Fabreeze, and stumbled out into the wind wishing I hadn’t lost my gloves. I really need them tonight too, since I scheduled in a couple more ladies to have drinks with. Man, Christmas in Japan sure is a busy time. Come on New Years.