Despite having a predominantly Buddhist and Shinto past (yes, most people identify with both! ), Christmas is the time of year when Christianity most strongly impacts Japan. Christmas offers a chance to embrace the bitter winter in Japan with brightness, music, and decorations. With that said, it’s also the best time to visit Japan if you’ve been planning to travel to Japan.
So, let’s see what Christmas in Japan is like.
Christmas Day in Japan
Given that barely 1% of Japanese people identify as Christians, it is hardly unexpected that people have forgotten the day’s original meaning as a celebration of Jesus’ birth. Christmas figures may emerge decoratively and English language teachers try their best to impart a feeling of tradition. However, Christmas in Japan is about pleasure and frivolity.
How is it different in Japan?
Christmas dessert? Yes, but try it with cream and strawberries! Turkey? Nearly, but KFC instead! Family? More like a romantic outing. Although there are some significant distinctions, Christmas in Japan looks and feels surprisingly like Christmas in Western nations. Every city shockingly resembles a stroll down 5th Avenue. And this is all thanks to the number of Christmas trees, Christmas lights, and holiday music flooding department stores.
Compared to western nations, Japan appears to enjoy the holiday season entirely differently. Christmas in Japan is a time for friends and couples to throw parties, schedule dinner dates, and generally enjoy themselves. Meanwhile, New Year’s is the time of year when the entire family gathers, goes to the temple and celebrates the arrival of January 1st with food and wine.
In fact, in Japan, the most romantic day of the year is Christmas Eve, which falls on December 24. It is the equivalent of Valentine’s Day there. In fact, you won’t want to be seen alone in public on Christmas Eve if you don’t have a date. Younger Japanese couples, in particular, reserve tables for romantic dinners. Moreover, shops sell romantic Christmas presents and the streets are exquisitely decked to capture this most romantic day.
Meanwhile, tourists celebrate Christmas like they have been doing in their nations. For example, Australians, Europeans, Americans, and Canadians gather in large numbers at Niseko and Hakuba. These are 2 of Japan’s most popular international ski resorts. Travelers and tourists assemble in these areas and celebrate Christmas with turkey and mulled wine.
Japanese Christmas Traditions
As we previously stated, Japan celebrates Christmas as a time to spread joy rather than as a religious holiday. Therefore, all the customary entities associated with it share the same meanings.
Christmas Cake in Japan
From Hokkaido to Kyushu, you can buy Japanese Christmas cake or “kurisumasu keki,” everywhere! With whipped cream filling and icing and freshly sliced, deep red strawberries on top, this dish is light and fluffy.
Japan rebuilt itself from the ruins left by World War II. Therefore, this beloved and delectable Christmas treat—which is also quite popular for birthdays—is also considered a symbol of prosperity.
The Biggest Christmas Meal In Japan: KFC
An estimated 3.6 million Japanese households choose Kentucky Fried Chicken for their Christmas dinner each year. This custom somehow ranks among the most revered and best captures the spirit of the Japanese holiday season.
People begin putting their orders for the special Christmas menu six weeks in advance due to the strong demand. Additionally, many must wait for hours to receive their meals on Christmas Day due to the lengthy line-up. As a result, celebrating Christmas the Japanese way entails paying the Colonel a visit!
But, why though? The cause dates back more than 40 years to Takeshi Okawara, the nation’s first KFC manager. After hearing a few foreigners discuss how much they missed the traditional food at this time of year, and shortly after the company’s doors opened in Japan in 1970, he had a dream that inspired him to create the “party bucket”, especially for Christmas.
Thus, KFC undertook a significant national Christmas marketing effort in 1974. Not to mention that it was a big success. It has become an essential component of their ritual and is the most often consumed Christmas meal in Japan. Despite being an expensive tradition, there is more to it than simply the chicken. It implies that complete families will gather and eat a meal together, and that is precious, right?
Christmas Markets in Japan
From the start of the winter season until the finish, Japan hosts traditional Christmas markets from the North to the South. Here, you can find everything from beautiful tree ornaments to mulled wine when in Japan at this time of year. Additionally, Sapporo has a Christmas market that we highly recommend you visit.
When it comes to excessive displays of holiday delight, nobody does it better than the Japanese. The nation as a whole goes bonkers for illuminations! You can find the most amazing light displays in public spaces like malls, restaurants, and dining establishments. This puts everyone passing by in a festive mood.
Additionally, there are seasonal illumination activities taking place across the nation from the middle of November until Valentine’s Day.
For example, the Tokyo Station in the capital, the Kaiyukan Aquarium in Osaka, or the onsen in Nagashima, Nabana no Sato, all have their own distinctive holiday lighting displays that are extremely lovely.
The bottom line
While there’s no doubt that Japan is a beautiful place for vacations, now you know what time is the best time to plan a trip to Japan. In fact, the festive vibe of Christmas blended with Japan’s traditional colors might be a once-in-a-lifetime experience for you.