Christmas in Japan

How the Japanese celebrate Christmas


One of the things people usually ask me when these dates are approaching is “Is Christmas celebrated in Japan despite being a Christian holiday?”. And if it is celebrated, “is it the same as in Europe and USA?” The short answer to that is: yes, it is celebrated, but no, it isn’t done the same as in the West. The first time I came to live in Japan and spent my first Christmas in this country, I was very surprised because it was nothing like what I was used to. But at the same time, I found it very interesting. That is why in today’s article I would like to explain how Christmas is celebrated in Japan.

The main religions in Japan are Shinto and Buddhism, and most of their traditions are linked to these two religions. They are traditions that come from years ago and have centuries of history. But Japan has something that has always seemed very curious to me: an incredible ability to take things from other countries, modify them to their own style and end up doing something totally new. Celebrating Christmas is something relatively new in Japan, which came from the West, especially from the United States, like Halloween. So they have created their own traditions, adapting it to their culture. Let’s learn how Christmas is celebrated in Japan!

-Christmas Illuminations

Illuminations in Japan

In Japan, the arrival of Christmas is announced by Christmas illuminations and decoration. There are many cities across the world that decorate its streets with beautiful lights for these dates, but in the case of Japan the thing goes much further, creating authentic visual shows with lights and sounds using even entire parks. Many shopping centers compete to see who has the best Christmas lights, and some of them, like Caretta Shiodome or Tokyo Midtown, are already a classic in Tokyo and people wait (impatiently?) every year to see the new creation of the year.

-Romantic but working day

Romantic dinner

One of the biggest differences between Christmas in Japan and my country is about with WHOM you spend this day. For me, Christmas is about to be with family, but in Japan, it’s a day for couples. In fact, I would say that it’s the most romantic day of the year for them since Valentine’s Day in Japan is only about giving chocolates (usually from women to men). On December 24th and 25th, it’s almost impossible to make a reservation in the most fashionable and cool restaurants in the city unless you book weeks in advance. The restaurants offer special courses only for those two days and are filled with couples enjoying a romantic evening and exchanging presents. But the best and more romantic way to spent Christmas Eve for Japanese is going to Tokyo Disneyland or DisneySea on the 24th. It’s the perfect date!

But even if couples go to dinner on the 25th together, they do it after leaving work. Since Japan isn’t a catholic country, December 25 isn’t a holiday and everyone has to work (if it’s a weekday) as any other day.

-Kentucky Fried Chicken

KFC christmas menu

Yes, as you hear it. For those who already have family, instead of going to a romantic restaurant, they go to KFC. As I have explained, Christmas came to Japan under the influence of the United States, and as you know, it is typical in the US to eat a roast turkey with the family. It is said that since it is difficult to find roast turkey in Japan, people began going to KFC because it was the closest thing. The company soon saw the opportunity and took the chance to do marketing with it. The campaign went so well that today you’ll see huge queues of people waiting to buy in the KFC on December 24 and 25.

-And for dessert … Christmas cake!

Christmas cake

And another Christmas tradition is the kurisumasu cake or Christmas cake. And although Japan has a huge amount of delicious sweets and cakes, by this date the clear winner is the cream cake and strawberries. You have to book it in time or go very early to get one!

What do you think about Christmas in Japan? 😃How do you celebrate it in your country? Any peculiar tradition?

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