An annual feature of the Christmas holidays in Japan is the chance for many foreign families to head out to see friends and family in their home country. The trigger is the day the international schools close and the following days see mayhem at Narita as a mass exodus begins, stressed parents desperately trying to corral excited children past check-in and onto security. Most will eventually find their way to a waiting lounge and a well deserved glass of Christmas spirit.
Tokyo takes on a slightly surreal quality at these times. The traffic is visibly lighter and the streets of Roppongi much calmer than normal. By New Year though, both the foreign communities and the Japanese will have exited the city. By this time the streets are not just quieter but almost deserted. The reduced traffic means less pollution and the cold winter air becomes crystal clear. Fuji feels like you can literally reach out and touch it. Going home to see family is important when you live away from daily contact, but staying and seeing Tokyo at its best is just as rewarding.