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Turkey would be really popular in Tokyo. If everyone had ovens. I love turkey and I knew my friends in Tokyo could appreciate an American icon that doesn’t just come to a theater near you, but comes straight to your dining table. Dinner parties are very rare in Tokyo because space is limited in homes. With so many options to eat out and stellar service, it is understandable that dining out makes more economical and practical sense than hosting at home.

Nevertheless, I was determined to make Thanksgiving in Tokyo happen in February.

So here’s how I did it:

1) Secure a staging area.
The best candidates for providing a staging area are super-domesticated couples in their 20s or 30s. Single people do not own ovens in Tokyo and older generations tend not to buy trendy, western appliances such as ovens. My victims were my friends who got married two years ago and just bought a two-bedroom home in a quiet area in western Tokyo.

2) Buy a turkey.
The most reliable supermarket to purchase a turkey in Tokyo is Nissin World Delicatessen located in Higashi-Azabu (ex-pat teritory). They regularly stock 30 or so turkeys imported from the U.S., even in a random month such as February. Plus, Arnold’s been there!

3) Contact Yamahomo.
I have been an avid fan of Yamahomo’s turkey extravaganza posts. If there is anyone in the world I would trust for turkey tips, it would be him. He replied with full enthusiasm, emphasizing the following: brine and baste. He also suggested “Veggies on the bottom of the pan produce enough liquid and after a couple of bastings, I will definitely baste using the juice that collects on the bottom.”

4) Work with the local food culture.
I knew I wanted to make a traditional Thanksgiving-style turkey, so it was brined and seasoned with herbs such as sage, thyme and rosemary. For the taters, I used my tried-and-true roasted garlic mashed potato recipe from my mother. But I was still unsure about the stuffing. I knew that Japanese people might not be crazy about stuffing with dried fruit or nuts, so I did a search for different types of stuffing. Being in Japan, I knew that I would earn points for incorporating at least one thing that was aquatic into the menu. After a few searches, it was official, I would make Oyster Stuffing. With oysters still in season in Japan, supermarkets regularly stock at least three types of raw-grade oysters. Score!

With all my recipes in order, I was ready to go.

Oyster Stuffing:

5) Buy ingredients for the fix-ins.
Ingredients for the mashed potatoes, turkey baste, turkey seasonings and stuffing are readily available at any supermarket in Tokyo. Therefore, shopping for these ingredients can be done with relative ease. However, it is challenging to find cranberries, so I opted to buy canned cranberry sauce (which is also hard to find, but doable). Seijo Ishii is a chain of supermarkets that sells a good selection of international foods, located at many major train stations in Tokyo (including, Shibuya, Shinjuku, and Ebisu). Canned S&W brand cranberry sauce was well-stocked at Seijo Ishii.

I was now loaded with all my ammunition.

6) Make the turkey dinner.
I arrived at my friend’s home at 4:00 pm with a brined 10-pound turkey. I figured that it should take about two hours to roast the turkey. While the turkey was busy yummifying, I made the fix-ins. Guests started arriving around 6:00 pm and wine bottles were uncorked. At 6:30 pm, I took the turkey out of the oven and thanked the Yamahomo gods for blessing the bird. Tanned to perfection and glistening like Arnold’s arms, I was careful to hide it from view while it rested for 30 minutes. This hiding tactic was important, for eight-tenths of the partygoers were turkey virgins and needed to experience the full wow factor of a turkey debut.

7) Educate and feast.
A turkey on an American dining table is heart-warming. A turkey on a Japanese dining table is heart-stopping because of its sheer novelty. It was a proud moment for the host, as people gathered round in awe of this American icon. With all the fix-ins surrounding the turkey, I was asked how all of this was eaten. My reply, “Gravy on the potatoes, cranberry sauce on the turkey, stuffing on the side. Or, forget that and just be creative.”

Plated turkey dinner:

To-die-for tiramisu prepared by Kurosawa-san:

8) Watch it disappear.
Japanese people are amazing when it comes to eating a whole animal. No matter how big or complex, fish disappear completely, eyeballs and all. Yakitori places also serve each and every part of the chicken. This is quite satisfying in the case of a turkey feast because there were literally no left-overs. I had never seen such a clean sweep of a turkey in my life and could not even locate the wishbone in the end (much to my dismay).



So if you can fire up an oven in Tokyo, Thanksgiving is yours in eight easy steps!


  • That’s awesome! Which brings me to a bright idea: a UM feast. somehow that needs to happen.

    Paystyle on

  • Paystyle, OMG, totally a UM feast. I dream of the day. Think of the collective talents of UM coming together in one meal. I’d arrive in stretchy pants.

    Yamahomo – I really could not have done this without you. Yeah, can you believe how economical the guests were? It was like 3-4 Roombas going at it in the end.

    yoko on

  • I am so proud of you Yoko for perfecting the bird!! I cannot believe the last picture. Did they really eat EVERYTHING? Frugality of the Japanese is amazing. Your friend must have spent a whole day next day cleaning the oven..

    Yamahomo on

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