Christmas Shopping Japan Style

Photo: kimubert on Flickr

Christmas Shopping Japan Style

Connie Nakamura

Christmas shopping can be a fun experience in Japan. Christmas marketing has come a long way in the past 17 years that I’ve been flying back and forth to visit family before making the permanent move to Kyushu.

During the early years it was a rare treat to see a few Christmas decorations here and there in various shops. They were especially scarce in the Japanese countryside. Things have come a long way since then. There has been a “Christmas marketing explosion” in the past few years and Christmas shopping has gone from rather dull and depressing to something to look forward to!

If you are new to Japan and are worried that you’ll have trouble finding decor to deck your halls for the holiday season, relax, because you can find just about any item you need to make things jolly and bright! Here are a couple of hints as to where you can find Christmas decor. I usually begin at the budget shops like Daiso, Seria or the 100 yen shops. They have really added to their line of Christmas decorations in recent years.

These places carry a variety of garland, tree ornaments and small knick-knack type decor that are just right for the smaller Japanese living accommodations. They even have small table-top Christmas trees in a variety of colors. If you are looking for stocking stuffers-they have a huge selection for all ages. They also carry wrapping paper.

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Daiso also carries individual Christmas cards. If you are looking to purchase boxed cards Amazon.jp has as assortment. You can also find them at Costco.

While it isn’t possible to find fresh Christmas trees you can find artificial trees in a few places. The home improvement centers usually carry them. They also have a small selection of ornaments and lights. You can also find trees and lights at some department stores like Mr. Max or Trial. These stores also carry a selection of Christmas decor and lights.

If your location has a Costco you will be able to find a very nice selection of full-sized artificial trees as well as American import wreaths, tree decorations, wrapping paper, lights, nativity sets and yard decor. They also have fabric Christmas themed table cloths, kitchen towels, dinnerware, scented candles and more!
Costco carries a large selection of tinned cookies, chocolates and other delicious goodies all sporting a holiday theme. If you are looking for candy canes--they have them in bigger sized boxes.

For the crafter out there--if you are into fabric arts like quilting or sewing Pandora House in the mall always has a small assortment of Christmas and holiday themed fabric and many times they also have a Christmas craft section.

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While I’ll admit Christmas is a bit different from what you may have been used to in your country, especially if you are from a Western country but you can look at it this way--half of the fun in decorating is being creative and trying new things!

Shopping for Christmas presents has become much more festive over the years. It’s so much more fun to shop for Christmas presents in a festive environment. Japanese retailers have really caught on to this idea in recent years.

Many shop windows are decked out with cheerful displays. Walking through the mall the atmosphere feels uber festive. Christmas music wafts from several places. Shops create special events like setting up a festive table and offering a taste of their new coffee selection for free! There are a lot of children’s events that take place and many are free.

Taking a stroll around the mall you’ll come across several “photo op” areas. It’s fairly common knowledge that taking lots of photos is usually always a part of the experience in Japan. No opportunity for a fun photo event is wasted. You can take a photo in front of the giant Christmas tree or how about a photo with a jolly snowman and Santa across from the kids store. Kids can even borrow a Santa or reindeer costume to make the photo really sweet-for free!

Delicious aromas from all the sweet shops fill the air creating a wonderful lasting memory. Christmas shopping in Japan has really become a fun filled event.

department store Christmas tree

This is also when the sales happen. Beginning mid-November through the New Year’s holidays everything imaginable is on sale. Years ago retailers focused mainly on Children. The big seller was the “Christmas boot” and is similar to the Western Christmas stocking that is filled with small toys and snacks.

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In recent years retailers have greatly expanded the Christmas shopping market in to many other areas of retail.

Even store displays have changed and now “wrapped presents” are strategically placed among store mannequins and in other spots giving people “hints” that these items might make a great gift. It has been interesting to see how Christmas retail has grown from being all about kids to one that is inclusive of everyone-including the family pet!

Need a gift item for your pooch? Your local pet shop will probably have just the item your pet will enjoy. From treats to toys and everything in between. You can even find a Santa suit that will make your little fur baby the envy of the neighborhood.

Black Friday isn’t just for the West anymore, Japan has their own version of that crazy shopping day. In America Black Friday is traditionally the day after Thanksgiving and it’s the biggest shopping day of the year drawing huge crowds to unbelievable sales. The event is a bit different here. Instead of just one day it begins on a Friday and ends on Sunday. Instead of being nation-wide it’s limited to AEON mall stores.

Are you having trouble with size conversions? Here are a couple of really handy size conversion charts to aid you in finding that perfect gift.

Men’s, women’s and children’s clothing conversion charts

Shoe size conversion charts

There is one store that seems to be a favorite for many -- Kaldi Coffee in AEON Mall. Kaldi is a fantastic and fun foreign import and whole bean coffee store. Before the Christmas holidays they stock up on imported items that make Christmas in Japan fun and festive. Part of the fun of a Christmas in Japan is discovering those little “treasures” that make it special.

At Kaldi you can find wonderful Christmas specialty items like Gluhwein, a traditional German spiced wine consumed at Christmas time.

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They also carry the old-fashioned advent calendars that have chocolate inside of the daily “doors”. I was thrilled to find real German stollen at Kaldi!

German Stollen

They have the cutest Christmas sock and candy sets-real socks you can wear! There is an assortment of adorable decorated cookies and festively wrapped chocolates.

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If you want to make a gingerbread house they have the kits. They even have gingerbread men!

Gingerbread house kits
This is just a small sampling of what they have to offer or the holidays! Every year they add something new.

After all that shopping, refueling with a coffee and donut will get you ready for another round! Even the donut shops get into the Christmas spirit. This year’s theme at Mister Donut is centered on Charlie Brown and Snoopy. Awesome!

Snoopy donut

Merry Christmas!