How To Enjoy Christmas The Japanese Way

How To Enjoy Christmas The Japanese Way

Christmas is celebrated in Japan, but not in the way you would think. With only 1.5% of the Japanese population practicing Christianity, the Christmas season isn’t about religion or family, but instead it’s about KFC and couples.

If you’re travelling to Japan for Christmas or just looking to celebrate it differently this year, this is how you can enjoy Christmas the Japanese way.

Christmas Day

Christmas isn’t a national holiday in Japan, so most people will still be working around the Christmas period. Because of this, Christmas is celebrated on the night of the 24th rather than the 25th. Couples and close friends will often have parties, go out for dinner or go on cute dates on Christmas Eve. It’s seen as an especially romantic day because of all the Christmas lights (known as ‘illuminations’) and gift giving.

Japanese Christmas Traditions

While Christmas isn’t the oldest celebration on the Japanese calendar, there are a few traditions that are observed on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.


Image: iStock

Back in the 1970s, the manager of Japan’s first KFC store started a ‘KFC for Christmas’ ad campaign after overhearing some foreigners saying they missed having turkey for Christmas dinner. The campaign took off and KFC has been Japan’s meal of choice for Christmas ever since.

It’s so popular that if you want to have KFC for Christmas you’ll need to order it weeks in advance to make sure you get some of that finger-lickin’ goodness on Santa’s favourite day of the year.

Christmas Cake (Kurisumasu Keki)

Image: iStock

Unlike the rich fruit cakes and puddings that are traditionally associated with Christmas, dessert in Japan is often a strawberry shortcake made with soft sponge, fresh cream and juicy strawberries. This cake is also eaten on birthdays, but the white and red colours have a real Christmassy vibe.

Disney Christmas

Image: iStock

If you’re visiting Japan for Christmas, Tokyo Disneyland has a Christmas event every year which involves a parade with giant floats adorned with a stellar cast of Disney’s most popular characters. If the parade isn’t your thing, there’s Christmas decorations everywhere in addition to special Disney Christmas merchandise and exclusive Christmas food menus in all the eateries. In the evening, guests can enjoy a fireworks show before returning to their hotels.

Christmas Markets

Christmas in Japan
Image: iStock

Once you’ve been to Tokyo Disneyland, you can visit one of the many European-style Christmas Markets dotted throughout the country. These markets feature stalls selling Christmas tree ornaments, sweets and even mulled wine and hot cider. The German Tourism Association sponsors the Tokyo Christmas Market and is one of the biggest and most authentic in Japan.

Christmas Illuminations

Christmas in Japan
Image: iStock

In Australia, we put Christmas decorations on our houses. In Japan, they put decorations on the whole country. Known in Japan as Illuminations (irumi for short), these Christmas lights are one of the most popular traditions in Japan. Seen as the ultimate symbol of festivities and romance, each landmark, town and shopping centre will have their own creative Illuminations put up at Christmas time.

No matter how you choose to celebrate Christmas this year, we hope it’s a good one. Merry Christmas, or as we say in Japanese, Merii Kurisumasu!

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