This was happening outside the train station near my home…
It’s not that Japanese are converting to Christianity, but they are falling in love with Christmas and carving out their own unique traditions — from caroling to Christmas illumination to food.
This is my list of How To CHRISTMAS in Japan:
1.) Christmas Illumination
These displays are getting bigger and better every year as their popularity soars into the stratosphere. Japan is getting like the Griswald’s on this:
This was last year’s display in my area:
There is no sign of it stopping as these displays draw huge crowds. In the past 3-4 years, Christmas Light displays have gone from hardly there to “everyone’s doing it so why don’t we?”.
Theme parks, usually dead in the wintertime, have injected their ticket sales with new life by doing special theme park wide Christmas displays like the one at Yomiyuri Land (which is stunning btw).
2.) Christmas Cakes
(Last year’s cake)
When I had my first winter in Japan, a co-worker asked, “Are you getting a Christmas Cake?”
Me: A what?
Co-worker: A Christmas Cake. It’s a western tradition.
Me: It… is?
The Japanese seem fully convinced it is, and getting the right Christmas Cake is serious business.
Sure, you can get one at a conbini even on Christmas if you need to, but if you want the really nice ones then you need to order a month in advance. Stores will start displaying their selections and the popular ones will start getting little “Sold Out” stickers slapped on the front very fast.
When you order, you wait a couple weeks and pick it up the day before Christmas. They have your name on a list and cross it off when you pick up your cake.
3.) Christmas KFC
Brilliant marketing ploy or just dumb luck?
Who knows how it happened exactly, but KFC is associated with Christmas in Japan. While any fried chicken might do, KFC is the premium “Christmas” food. You can’t enjoy Christmas without your KFC and elaborate $40 Christmas Cake. That just wouldn’t be right.
For the Christmas sets you have to order even more in advance than the popular Christmas Cakes. It’s not joke that KFC is uber-popular the day before and on Christmas day.
I have tried a couple times to pick up chicken from there two days before Christmas only to see lines that wrapped three times around the store. I gave up and settled for store-made fried chicken, but KFC just isn’t worth it or “Christmas” to me. However, the Japanese go crazy for the stuff on Christmas.
I don’t get it…
Christmas might mean family gatherings in the West, but in Japan it is for love. Not having a date on this day is considered a real disappointment. This is when you get gushy romantic and go to all those lovely Christmas Illumination spots with your drum of KFC and your slice of Christmas Cake.
In a lot of the shoujo manga (girl’s comics) Christmas Day is penned in as an important “date” for the two budding lovebirds. You book your romantic plans in advance and lay it on thick.
All the romantic spots will be filled with lovers enjoying their perfect Christmas dates on this day.
5.) Love Hotels
I hear, clears throat, that these places are packed on Christmas Day. I swear that I have never confirmed this fact, but have it on good word that the love hotels are all full on this day.
Christmas Day is to love hotels what Christmas is to KFC. They get huge business on this day. Apparently, if that perfect Christmas date went well, it’s time to end things on a bang.
You can’t reserve these places, so it’s a battle royale to get a room on Christmas Day. They sometimes have a wait with cars waiting in line for a spot.
So that’s how’s you Christmas in Japan.
Got that? Get your bucket of KFC fried chicken, your sugar-coated, elaborately-adorned Christmas Cake, and go for a perfect date at a romantic Christmas Illumination spot, and then get in line for room at a love hotel with your partner for the PERFECT Christmas experience in Japan.
Oh, and let’s not talk about how creepy Santa’s way of delivering presents is in Japan. Shhh…. ignorance is bliss.