Yoko Reflects on Christmas in Japan

Yoko is our Marketing Assistant and here is her take on Christmas in her hometown!

Christmas songs from morning radio programs, bright decorations along the streets and storefronts, malls crowded  with families and young couples … Christmas is coming soon! When this time of year comes around I begin to miss my hometown in Japan, where Christmas music, Christmas trees, bright displays in shopping mall, and sweet couples are all over the place. Even though the air outside is cold, these days are the most beautiful and warm of the year.

In December, one of the first signals that the holidays are coming are the Christmas themed commercials.  KFC and Pepsi have commercials that feature original songs that always brings out the feeling of Christmas in Japan. Many TV and movie stars will also appear in commercials that celebrate the spirit of Christmas.

Besides, main cities start to wear bright and beautiful illumination, such as Roppongi (六本木), Yebisu (恵比寿), Omotesando (表参道), and Tokyo tower (東京タワー).

Roppongi (六本木)
Roppongi (六本木)

In Japan, Christmas is a romantic event for couples to spend time together since there are so many pretty and beautiful events out there. After work, they meet up in the city, and go shopping and have dinner with a glass of champagne.

Others will go out with their friends or co-workers in the evening to celebrate the end of the year through holiday parties or reunions with friends from the past.  A popular place to hangout is at karaoke bars or other venues (maybe someone’s house as well) where people can relax and have a good time.

Ebisu Garden Place (恵比寿)
Ebisu Garden Place (恵比寿)

Others spend Christmas with family. Typical dishes around Christmas time are chicken and cake. They might have a whole roasted chicken for dinner plus some traditional Japanese dishes, and have Christmas cake for dessert.  Picking out the Christmas cake is one of my favorite parts of Christmas in Japan since all the cakes around that time are really pretty and delicious.  While we do all of these activities, Christmas in Japan is still not as big of an event as Christmas in America.  Since Christmas isn’t a national holiday in Japan we do not get days off of work or school so instead of having big family reunions we try to just have our close family together for that day and give thanks to having one another.  Children might get some gifts while sleeping at night. I remember my mom (oops, Santa Claus) gave me one pair of socks for Christmas and I cried loudly the next morning.

It may seem slightly different how people in Japan and people here spend Christmas. But if we look closer, while the way we celebrate might be different, both countries is still to spend it with the people you love the most. No matter how different the cultures and traditions are, the main purpose of Christmas is to spread happiness to all the precious people in your life.

Merry Christmas to everyone!!

image source
Roppongi  : http://www.mori.co.jp/company/press/release/2007/11/20071107134401000130.html
Ebisu : http://matome.naver.jp/odai/2135436537364750001/2135437160565756303


There are some lovely things about Christmas in Japan – the dramas on tv that tell romantic stories of couples who may not have known how deep their love was until Christmas night when they find themselves realizing what the true meaning of Christmas is – it’s all about dating a cute girl in a fluffy outfit who is standing outside at night in a brightly lit Christmas scene with perfect makeup as snow begins to fall gently.   It is, as the Japanese say, ro-man-ti-ku.

In Japan, people also like a good Christmas Cake  –  these are usually wonderful concoctions of whip cream and strawberry goodness.   Sounds like a better option over sticky lumpy fruitcake.

Then there’s the KFC tradition of ordering a fast food chicken dinner with all the fixings to devour with your family on Christmas night.   Mmmmm….  I don’t know when this started but it’s not a bad idea!  Sounds pretty good about now as I think about the many hours of cooking I have ahead of me when my family comes over on Christmas.

Why is Christmas so popular in Japan?  Not sure, maybe because Santa’s outfit has the same colors as the Japanese flag?  In fact, KFC, Santa, Strawberries & Cream and the Japanese flag… Wait a second, what do these all have in common?  The color scheme!  Wow.  I can’t believe I just figured it out.  Now on to global warming!

But before I solve that, I also have a theory about why Christmas is a romantic holiday in Japan – because everywhere you go, you can’t get away from Mariah Carey singing, “All I Want For Christmas” and George Michael singing “Last Christmas.”  These might be the official Christmas songs in Japan, not “White Christmas” or “Jingle Bells.”  You’d be hard pressed to find a Japanese person under 40 who didn’t know either of these Christmas pop songs.

The holiday season is fun wherever you go.  It’s the end of the year so people all around the world feel a little nostalgic, a little rejuvenated and maybe a little stressed out.  For us, it’s the busiest time of year as we try to supply all our customers with all the sushi sets they need to make their holiday season successful.  With just a couple of more shopping days to go, it’s always nuts but we are thankful that we are busy.

Happy Holidays everyone!  Enjoy your Christmas turkey, ham, roast or fast food chicken!  And may all your holidays be bright!