Even though Christmas isn’t a national holiday in Japan, it’s extremely popular! As early as October, one can see Christmas decorations springing up in department stores! Beginning in November, Christmas music can be heard almost everywhere and advertisements for Christmas sweets and goods can be seen at malls and bakeries. So is there a difference between Christmas in Western countries and Christmas in Japan? The answer is yes!
As western countries focus on family, friends and time off from work, Japan’s Christmas focuses on dating. Christmas is a very popular season to go on fancy dates with one’s significant other. Most Japanese still work on Christmas, so meeting afterwards with that special someone for dinner at an expensive restaurant is ideal. For families, it’s a bit different. Families will order a Christmas cake from either a bakery or grocery store, and eat KFC for dinner! Yes, Kentucky Fried Chicken. Reservations for KFC’s Christmas dinner usually opens around mid-November. This year, KFC is offering more options other than the fried chicken meal. Customers can try a whole premium roasted chicken for 5,800YEN- that’s almost fifty US dollars! Also new this year is KFC’s Chicken Pot Pie for around 580YEN.
No one knows how KFC became a Christmas tradition in Japan, however some speculate it was just an outcome of great campaigning. As mentioned before, it’s not only chicken for Christmas day, but also Christmas cake. Common Christmas cakes are cake rolls, chocolate, and strawberry shortcake. These cakes are decorated with a variety of goodies such as chocolate molds, fruits and plastic accents. Depending on the size and where purchased, a Christmas cake usually costs anywhere from 1,200YEN to 6,000YEN. Baskin Robins even offers a Christmas ice cream cake for those who prefer ice cream over cake!
Even though New Years is Japan’s main season for sending greeting cards, Christmas cards are slowly gaining in popularity. Cards can be found in most stationary shops. However, don’t expect to find a boxed set of cards, since most Japanese Christmas cards are sold individually. Along with cards, anyone can find the usual Christmas in-store items like Christmas trees, wreaths, blankets, wrapping paper and more. Restaurants and cafés will also sometimes feature special menus, flavors and desserts for the Christmas season. This year, Starbucks will be serving Hot Apple Tea and Apple Caramel Frappuccino from December 1st through the 25th. Mr. Donuts will start selling their special Christmas sets at stores nationwide. Customers can choose between the A set or B set for 1,080YEN!
Other than eating KCF or a fancy meal and snacking on sweets from around town, there are many other things to do in Japan for Christmas! Tokyo Disneyland and DisneySea have a special Christmas Celebration from November 9th through December 25th. The whole park transforms into a Christmas wonderland offering many seasonal goodies for its guests. All over Japan one can find “Light ups” or “Illuminations.” These events are held by parks, malls, outside shopping areas and gardens. Such illuminations use thousands of stringed lights to make designs, shapes, and patterns that light up beautifully at night, creating a perfect place to relax and walk around. Hot drinks are often available to help visitors stay warm. Bars and nightclubs also host Christmas parties for those looking for more of a night-life.
Photo : Dick Thomas Johnson on Flickr
So if anyone finds themselves in Japan for Christmas, don’t worry. There is plenty of holiday spirit to help make one feel at home!