If you want to find out what Christmas in Japan is like, now you are going to find out. There aren’t many Christians in Japan, so Christmas is not seen as a religious holiday or celebration. Despite all that, it’s still a fun and festive time of the year. Many things that are usually associated with Christmas in the West are present in Japan as well, such as festive trees in shopping centres, Christmas markets and wonderful light decorations. Besides that, there are a few unique traditions that are purely Japanese.
The traditional Japanese Christmas food is Christmas cake. You can find it on practically every street corner from Hokkaido to Kyushu. This dessert is light and spongy with whipped cream filling and frosting, topped with perfectly cut deep red strawberries. Fun fact – the ‘shortcake’ emoji  is Japanese Christmas cake!
Like in other parts of the world, Christmas is a time when families come together for a special family meal. But did you know that in Japan that meal is KFC. You heard it right, Kentucky Fried Chicken is by far the most popular meal on Christmas. It is so popular that people have to place orders weeks in advance to ensure they get their bucket of fried chicken. How did this come to be you might ask? It is a story of dreams and marketing. In short, the first KFC manager in the country, Takeshi Okawara, in his dream got the idea of a “party bucket,” to be sold on Christmas. In 1974, KFC Japan launched a massive national Christmas marketing campaign and proved to be a huge success. Now over 40 years later, it is a common tradition for millions of families all over the country.
One thing that Japan is crazy about are the winter light decorations. During the entire winter you can witness many lighting events and setups all over the country. From big shopping malls, to public areas and restaurants, wonderful lights are there to bring you the Christmas mood. Many of these places become popular tourist attractions just for these lights. The most popular are the Tottori Sakyu Illusion, Osaka Hikari Renaissance, and the Caretta Shiodome. When you see these places for yourself you will understand the magic of their lights! So if you are in Japan during winter, make sure to visit them!
Similar to western countries, Christmas is a time of holiday shopping as well. People go to big malls and small shops to get gifts and treats for loved ones. At this time shopping malls are usually decorated with Christmas decorations, and sell many special items such as traditional trees, ornaments, and other Christmas goods. One thing that is unique to Japan are Japanese Christmas markets. They are hosted at the start of the winter season and you can find them all over the country. The most famous one is the Tokyo Christmas Market. German Embassy and the German Tourism Association sponsor it. You can visit it from December 16th to 25th in Hibiya Park.
Christmas Eve in Japan is thought of as a romantic day. For many people it is the most romantic day of the year. Couples spend most of the day together and exchange presents. It is common for younger couples to do many activities together such as taking walks and enjoying the many Christmas lights. One thing they also do is a trip to the restaurant to enjoy a romantic meal together. That is why it is hard to book a table in many restaurants on Christmas Eve! All in all, Christmas Eve in Japan can be considered similar to Valentine’s day in western countries. So if you are in Japan during Christmas with your significant other, you know what to do. Take them on an unforgettable night out in the city!
If you ever decide to visit Japan during Christmas, you need to be aware that the downside of winter trip is that days are shorter. However, a popular saying goes like this: Early to bed, early to rise, makes the man healthy, wealthy and wise… and as said in Japanese, Merii Kurisumasu (Merry Christmas) to all of you!
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