One of the favorite winter pastimes here in Japan is sitting with your legs under a kotatsu while eating mikan.  In case that sentence confused you, let me explain that a ‘kotatsu’ is a table that has a heater underneath it.  It is usually covered with a blanket and is very popular in Japanese homes in the winter.  A ‘mikan’ is a mandarin orange.  So, to rephrase, one of the favorite pastimes here in Japan is sitting with your legs under a heated table while eating mandarin oranges.  Though recently, the popularity of this pastime has declined.  Apparently, many mikan farms are being shut down because mikan consumption is just not what it used to be.  There are several reasons for this:

1) Kotatsu sales are down.  Many people nowadays opt for some sort of space heaters rather than the kotatsu, which take up more space and don’t heat the entire room.  Eating mikan and talking was something to pass the time while sitting around the cozy, warm kotatsu.  Families now are more likely to sit and face the TV, instead of sitting around a table facing each other.

2) More fruits are now available in the winter.  Although mikan still consistently rank in the top 10, other fruits like strawberries, persimmon, and pineapple, previously unavailable in the winter months, are now more popular and cheaper than before.

3) Mikan are hard to peel.  OK, this reason is not actually true.  I find mikan to be as easy to peel as the clementines (quite possibly the same fruit by a different name) we have back home.  The problem is that gorgeous manicures have become increasingly popular among women.  These are the all-out, ultra-long, glitter-laced, sparkly-things-glued-on manicures.  And they’re expensive.  So of course, if mom has these manicured nails, she’s not gonna want to peel mikan for her family.

I, for one, am disappointed by this trend.  I do not own a kotatsu, yet I LOVE mikan.  Seriously, I’ll eat 4-5 a day.  They’re a great source of vitamin C.  They’re a good snack that isn’t junk.  And they’re great when you’re thirsty, but have no juice in the house because your fridge is the size of a dorm fridge and you’re tired of only buying small drink bottles that just have to get stripped of their labels and caps, washed and separated into their own garbage bag as soon as they’re finished (see my October 9 post) so you’ve been drinking only hot tea and are slightly sick of it at the moment.  But I digress.  Anyway, I want to say that I fully support the mikan!  I will proudly display the gunky peel under what’s left of my fingernails in order to help save a Japanese seasonal icon!  Let everyone else eat their fancy tropical fruits like pineapple and mango –  pass me the mikan!  Just as long as I don’t have to try to fit a kotatsu in my tiny, tiny room.

Obama lounging under a kotatsu with mikan