I decided that after asking for your favourite Christmas dishes, I should tell you a little about what we had planned. Coming from an Australian background, I am used to Christmas in summer. For us this has usually involved cold seafood - prawns, oysters, crabs - and perhaps more traditional roast pork, turkey and ham. The seafood is easy to come by over here but a leg of ham or a turkey is pretty difficult to find. That is, unless you shop at a Hanamasa store.
Hanamasa is one of a number of import and wholesale type stores that operate in chains around Japan. Walking in the front door, you are immediately hit by the feeling that there is something distinctly non-Japanese going on there. The place is often run down and under staffed. There are puddles or pools of water lying on the bare concrete floors. The shelves are old and sagging and the whole place looks a little industrial.
When you take a closer look at the shelves it is possible to imagine that you are in any city of the world. It will be stocked with Curry mixes from Indonesia, biscuits from Israel, tinned tomatoes from Portugal and most importantly beef, and pork from Australia, Canada, and America. Why this is important is because Japanese beef and pork is very high quality but also very highly priced. It is all feedlot raised and carefully managed and so the costs of production are much higher than for pasture raised cows overseas. this accounts for why it is possible to buy a roast of Australian beef for about half the price of Japanese beef. Of course the product is also totally different, but what would you expect.
Anyway I digress. Hanamasa stores are one place that we can turn, to buy large pieces of meat - beef, ham, pork, turkey or even lamb (mutton) - for Christmas. Although we will not be home for Christmas this year, we will be skiing up near Nagano, and the lodge we are staying at there puts on a great Christmas feast. I’ll write about the details later, but for the moment I have just one word for you (and this sums up Japanese Christmas food) and that is “cake”.