It’s that time of the year again. Family and friends in your home country are busy shopping for the last missing Christmas presents and are decorating their homes with twigs of fir and mistletoe, while Frank Sinatra is calmly singing about “being home for Christmas”.
If you are reading this article, maybe you won’t be home for Christmas this year, but are instead exploring Japan as a tourist or as a resident.
Especially in the lovingly holiday season, it can be tough being separated from your dear ones, so it’s good to know where to find that Christmas spirit nonetheless!
Being a German, Christmas always meant visiting the countless holiday-themed stalls around the city to me.
These were market squares that are transformed into beautiful little villages made of wood and fairy lights, the scent of cinnamon and oranges lingering in the air as you wander around the aisles.
Japan has to offer a variety of Christmas markets in Tokyo and Osaka, too, but are they authentically German?
Putting them to the test, I first visited the Christmas market in Hibiya Park, which is located in the business district near Shinbashi Station in Tokyo.
Being a beautiful park that combines traditional Japanese and modern elements, it seems to be the perfect place to attract international guests to this traditionally German event.
As soon as you enter the scene, the park is bursting with little shops, displaying seasonal sweets, beverages and crafted Christmas goods. Lit with fairy lights, you can walk the paths between the stalls and get a closer look at traditional wooden figurines, Christmas ornaments and of course, country-specific food and beverages. They sell potatoes, Bratwürst, mulled wine and also have a variety of imported German sweets!
In the spotlight stands unarguably the big wooden pyramid, which is about 14m tall and represents the valued German tradition about Christmas, displaying wooden nutcrackers, harpers and angels, all painted to the smallest details.
Even in my home country, not every Christmas market sets up a wooden pyramid, so it is even more impressive to find one in the middle of busy Tokyo!
Moving on to Osaka, you can find an even more impressive scene of the Christmas Market.
As Hibiya had to offer more of a cozy and calm line-up of different stalls in the natural atmosphere of the park, the setting is in front of the Umeda Sky Building in Osaka and is located in the very center of the district and attracts many curious visitors who are passing by.
In the festively lit atmosphere, you can see the stalls offering tasty pastries, nuts and baked apples, as well as hot beverages with mulled wine and rich hot chocolate next to a giant Christmas tree that can be seen from everywhere of the market.
Be sure to listen to the magical notes of the Christmas sounds that will surround you and plunge into the festive mood!
For amusement, there are merry-go-rounds to ride for the little visitors, stalls with spices and ornaments waiting to be discovered by mature visitors and of course, the intimate setting of the holy crib to see for everyone.
As one of the biggest Christmas markets in Japan, the festive set up in Osaka can surely be called a traditional German Christmas Market.
If you are still looking for the most festive activity of the season, make sure to plan your trip to Osaka!
The market will be opened until December 25, every day from 11am to 10pm.
Detailed information on how to get to the venue can be found here:
Location: Umeda Sky Building Wonder Square 〒531-6023 Ōsaka-fu, Ōsaka-shi, Kita-ku, Ōyodonaka, 1 Chome 1−1
If you are living in the Tokyo area or want to explore a setting in a natural atmosphere, you can visit Hibiya’s Christmas Market until December 25.
Every day until December 25. 11am to 10pm.
The access to Hibiya Park and more information on the festival can be found here (Japanese only).