Observing favorite family holidays from home can prove problematic, particularly if you aim for authenticity.
But don’t despair—prepare! Your own Thanksgiving gathering, that is.
Traditional Turkey DIY
Turkey or chicken? Hunting down a turkey in Tokyo can be tricky, but stores are starting to stock the big birds earlier in preparation for Christmas. You can also ask them to order one for you. This takes a few days, and whether the fowl is frozen or not will depend on the store (and affect your prep time), so confirm before ordering.
Chickens can be had for cheap, but the birdies are often itty-bitty. You can also try online at The Flying Pig (www.theflyingpig.com), The Foreign Buyers’ Club (www.fbcusa.com) or The Meat Guy (www.themeatguy.jp) to see what they have. Your oven is likely but a shadow of what you grew up with, so pick your poultry with caution.
Side dishes shouldn’t hold you back; the only difficulty will be deciding which variety of sweet potato best approximates the taste of home (hint: try annō imo—sources say it’s the best).
Thanksgiving in Tokyo might also be a chance to broaden a basic dinner into a fusion feast: Sauté some shiitake in butter for a special side-dish; for dessert, place a few persimmon slices on plates for color or serve persimmon flan alongside the pumpkin pie.
Spend Not, Thank Lots
Buying a bird and all the trimmings can break the bank. But Thanksgiving isn’t just about poultry, it’s about giving thanks—and you don’t need a roast for that. Potluck parties are a perfect way to celebrate without killing your credit. Assign each guest a dish (sweet, savory, veggies, etc.) and host them at home. Living in Lilliputian lodgings? Many neighborhoods have community centers where rooms can be rented cheaply (check your local women’s hall, or fujinkaikan, to start). Just make sure that food is allowed and know that any attached kitchenettes will likely be just the kitchen sink.
Bedazzle Your Abode
Between the fall foliage and ¥100 shops, you should be able to convert your casa into a cornucopia of Thanksgiving-themed comfort. A few leaves here, a felt turkey there, and an overflowing horn of plenty fashioned from cardstock can give you Thanksgiving perfection.
Want to give thanks with your little ones, but not up for slaving away in a cramped kitchen? Head out to hotels like the ANA InterContinental (Nov 26-30, www.anaintercontinental-tokyo.jp/e), The Four Seasons (Nov 22-27, www.fourseasons.com/tokyo) and the Grand Hyatt (Nov 27-29, www.tokyo.grand.hyatt.com), all of which welcome diminutive diners as well as their guardians. Roti Roppongi (Nov 27-30, www.roti.jp) welcomes wee ones at early sittings, and also has Thanksgiving dinner available for take-out.