Yesterday, my friend Marlene and her neighbor came up my way and we went out looking for the Great Pumpkin.
Marlene lives in the next town over and we have been friends for nearly 15 years. Her husband is also Japanese and we both came to Japan around the same time. Our kids have grown up together and when everyone lived at home we would often have Thanksgiving dinners together. Nowadays we only seem to have time for a quick lunch or coffee together.
Marlene also teaches English in her home and every year has a big Halloween party and her English kids look forward to Halloween decorations as mine do. So... What we need are Halloween jack-o'lanterns! Every year around this time we start looking for pumpkins but it is not as easy as you might think. So far this year, neither of us has found a pumpkin so Marlene thought we'd have more luck out in my farming area than in her more populated town so we went on our treasure hunt together. (Her neighbor, Mrs. Waki, went along to watch how nutsy foreigners can get.)
Some years I've found pumpkins in some one's field and gone up to the farmhouse and scared the poor farmer worse than any Halloween ghost might have.
"Excuse me. You seem to have pumpkins. Would you sell me one or two?"
The farmer was so surprised to have a foreigner come to his door that he just gave them to me. (Marlene has even better luck. She's blond!)
A couple of years ago Marlene found some big yellow pumpkins being used for autumn decorations at the grocery store that were not for sale but she convinced the manager that he wouldn't have any use for them after Halloween anyway and she needed them now.
This year however, we aren't doing so well. We checked out three places yesterday where we've found pumpkins before but this year there was neither hide-nor-hair of a Halloween pumpkin. It's not that Halloween hasn't become popular in Japan. Plastic decorations abound, (five years ago no one had even heard of Halloween in this part of Japan) and lots of Halloween candy for exorbitant prices. Of course Japanese eat pumpkins but they are small and dark green! The stores also sell decorative orange pumpkins about the size of a tea cup and they even provide "face" stickers so that you can have a jack-o'lantern on your coffee table or somewhere. But Japan has yet to adopt the custom of putting out smiling, candle lit jack-o'lanterns on your front porch.
We've still got two weeks to search so I haven't given up yet! Great Pumpkin, I'm waiting for you!