Japan might not be a Christian country but Christmas is still incredibly popular. Although Christmas in Japan might not be traditional, there are many places to go and things to see in order to keep the Christmas spirit alive. With almost every store chiming with carols and Christmas themed sweet treats for sale at convenience stores you can still enjoy a wonderful festive season in Japan. So, don't spend a miserable Christmas feeling homesick, check out this guide on how to experience Japanese Christmas like a pro.
Other than seeing your loved ones, there is nothing more important at Christmas than Christmas food. Finding your traditional foods such as turkey roast or cranberry sauce might be nearly impossible but Japan makes up for it. During the month of december several German themed Christmas markets are held that serve more traditionals foods such as fruit cakes, soft pretzels, mulled wine, beer and bratwurst sausages. Get lost in one of these festivals and you might just forget you are in Japan.
Wooden stalls selling trinkets and christmas trees lit up with fairy lights create an atmosphere of christmas that will remind you of home. They also have some rather impressive illuminations that truly set the festive mood.
There are 5 Christmas markets in Tokyo:
- Solamachi Christmas Markets - Oshiage
- Christmas Marche - Yebisu Garden Palace, Ebisu
- Yokohama Red Brick Warehouse Christmas Market - Minato Mirai
- Roppongi Hills Christmas Market - Roppongi
- Tokyo Christmas Market - Hibiya Park
Another, more Japan specific trend is the trend of eating Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC) at Christmas. During the Christmas period, KFC offers special package meals, which must be ordered in advance. They are known for selling out so you have to get in quick. Supposedly this all started thanks to a marketing campaign that suggested it was common in The West to eat KFC during the festive period. Even the Colonel Sanders who stands outside of every KFC store is dressed up in Santa clothes.
Most bakerys will start selling beautifully adorned Christmas cakes and cookies that would put french pattisiers to shame. The best place to look for christmas desserts is usually in the depa-chika or the basement floor of well known department stores. In the West, fruit cake is considered to be the traditional cake for the season. In Japan, the well loved white sponge cake decorated with cream and strawberries is the most popular cake during this time of year.
Another great thing about Christmas in Japan is that many shops sell limited edition flavours and christmas goodies. Starbucks always releases a special drink and convience stores sell cute christmas desserts.
Christmas is for Romance
In the West, we typically think about gathering together with our families to celebrate Christmas on the 25th. However, in Japan it is not so common for families to spend the day together. This is mostly due to the fact that it is not actually a public holiday so work continues as per usual. Instead it is common for couples to spend the 24th of December together. Usually going to see the christmas illuminations, exchanging gifts and enjoying a romantic dinner. Thus many of the christmas events tend to have a romantic vibe and lots of restaurants offer special couples dinner packages. Some young people will try to find a partner just to avoid spending this romantic day alone. Therefore, Christmas is usually celebrated on the 24th rather than the 25th, which is considered to be the true Christmas.
So, if you find yourself in Japan on the 24th, why not pluck up the courage to ask your crush out on a date?
Festive illuminations have become a popular attraction that usually stretch between november to december. The streets of many major cities are lit up at night with fairy lights. The most impressive is the Kobe Illuminarie which was first constructed to commemerate the victims of the Kobe Earthquake.
Famous Tokyo Illuminations include:
- The Starlight Garden at Tokyo Midtown in Roppongi
- The Caretta illuminations in Shiodome
- Shinjuku Terrace City illuminations
- Illuminations line the streets of Ginza
- Decks Odaiba - known for its massive christmas tree
The Ashikaga Flower fantasy is also another illumination worth mentioning. It is one of the top three illimunation events in the Kanto region of Japan. The lights are desgined to resemble flowers and special light music shows create and amazing spectle.
You can also buy your own decorations at many stores around Japan, such as Daiso or Nitori if you want to through your own Christmas party. Nitori is a good place to buy a christmas tree and decorations.