It’s Christmas! Every store is playing Christmas songs, every shopping center is decked out with Christmas-themed confectionery. The monster that is Commercial Christmas is here again, and it is unavoidable! For better, or for worse. I wonder what the Grinch would think.
Christmas in Japan
If you’re reading this, then you are probably going to be spending your Christmas in Japan. If it’s your first Christmas in Japan then you’ll be wondering ‘what IS a Japanese Christmas?’Do Japanese people celebrate Christmas? If they do – how is Christmas celebrated in Japan? What’s a KFC Christmas dinner??
First of all, they do have Christmas in Japan. Like all major Western Holidays, Japan has embraced the influence of Christmas, at least commercially. As we said, walk around a shopping mall from November all the way through to New Year and there is no escaping Christmas!
However, is a Japanese Christmas going to be like Christmas in your home country? Probably not, but this needn’t be a bad thing. Sometimes change is good. You probably wouldn’t have moved to Japan if you weren’t prepared to embrace change, right? Embrace Japanese culture. Embrace the Japanese Christmas!
How is Christmas celebrated in Japan?
A Japanese Christmas is primarily about gift-giving. Nowadays, most children growing up in Japan will be taught about Santa Claus, just the same as children all around the world. Therefore, gifts (giving and receiving!) are central to Christmas in Japan.
A Japanese Christmas is not considered a religious holiday due to the lack of Christians living in the country. In fact, Christmas is considered closer to Valentine’s Day than a religious holiday. In Japan, Christmas Eve is considered the most romantic night of the year!
Therefore, nearly all shops and restaurants will stay open on Christmas day, unlike other countries where they close early! If you love shopping, then this might be a benefit to spending your Christmas in Japan! Do not worry about stores closing, shop and eat to your heart’s content, soaking in the Christmas music as you go.
Many shopping centers install Christmas-specific features to celebrate the holiday. You can find small theme parks popping up, ice rinks to go ice skating, as well as small Christmas markets like those seen across Europe.
How is Christmas celebrated in Japan? In theme parks!
People often spend Christmas in Japan in theme parks and zoos. Theme parks like Disneyland and Universal Studios have Christmas-themed parades, as well as fireworks in the evening. You should consider going to either of these if you want to celebrate Christmas with plenty of other people! But, be warned, theme parks are very crowded around Christmas!
If you are looking to celebrate Christmas in Japan religiously, then you will be able to find Christian churches even if they are few and far between. Look online, Google should suffice. Most cities will have a Christian church somewhere. These Churches will normally hold special Christmas services just as they would in the rest of the world. Be sure to check online prior to going or call the church and ask them about their services!
KFC Christmas dinner
Christmas in Japan wouldn’t be Christmas in Japan without a KFC Christmas dinner! Whilst this seems bizarre to foreigners, the Japanese consider the KFC Christmas dinner as spectacularly Christmassy. Why? KFC ran a promotional campaign in the 70s advertising a ‘Kentucky Christmas.’ Ever since every year millions of Japanese people eat a KFC Christmas dinner on Christmas day.
It is so popular that people place an order at the restaurant months in advance, just to ensure they have their prized KFC Christmas dinner. It really does seem to be that integral to a Japanese Christmas! KFC stores around the country have statues of Colonel Sanders standing outside their front doors dressed in Santa costumes!
Japanese Christmas Cake
After eating your Christmassy KFC, why not try a Japanese Christmas cake? Whilst the Christmas cake is eaten across Europe is normally a heavy, fruit-laden, brandy-soaked affair (we’re looking at you Stollen!) The Japanese Christmas cake is considerably lighter in taste and texture, as most Japanese foods tend to be when compared to Western heavy foods!
A Japanese Christmas cake is a light sponge cake, topped with cream and strawberries. The cake can be found in all sorts of stores, from your 100 Yen shop variations, all the way up to the most expensive delicatessens. For a true tasting of the Japanese Christmas cake, we do recommend going to a local patisserie or cake shop. They might be a little more expensive, but it’s Christmas after all. Treat yourself!
Christmas in Japan the basics
Ok, let’s round up a quintessential Japanese Christmas. Shop till you drop. Visit the local Christmas attractions (City Markets, or, if you can, the parades at USJ or Disneyland!) Eat a KFC Christmas dinner, then finish the meal off with a delicious Japanese Christmas cake, (bought from a local cake shop, if you can afford it!)
Do these things and you’ll have ticked off a Japanese Christmas. However, do remember that the spirit of Christmas is about spending time with other people. This needn’t be in person, after all. Reach out to friends and family online if you can. Speaking and sharing the day, if only for a quick chat, is going to make your day.