Christmas in Japan

by Best-Japanese Team
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Hakodate Illumination

At this time of the year, shops and malls are with Christmas decorations as well as gorgeous winter illumination events are held all over the world including Japan.

Here is a quick snapshot of what you can see at Midtown Tokyo during the Christmas season in Japan.

Source: Tokyo Midtown Management Co., Ltd. | ‘Tokyo Midtown Christmas 2022’

Japanese people do celebrate Christmas, but not religiously as you may imagine since less than 2% of Japanese people are practicing Christianity.

To find out more about Japan at Christmas time, please read on as we’ve created a Q & A style article with photos and videos for you to get to know how Japanese people celebrate Christmas.

What does Christmas mean to Japanese people?

To most Japanese, it’s a fun time to have parties with friends as family gatherings are generally held at Obon in August and on New Year’s Eve or during the first few days of the New Year.

For families with children, Christmas is about putting up a Christmas tree at home and giving children presents.

To couples, it means having a romantic dinner at home or a fancy restaurant and exchanging presents. Nice restaurants usually have “Christmas Dinner for two” course menus, and they tend to get booked up especially on Christmas Eve as couples prefer to have their Christmas dinner on Christmas Eve.

Source: Aichi Prefecture | ‘Port of Nagoya Christmas 2022’ in Aichi Prefecture

What do Japanese people do around Christmas?

Shopping is one of them to do as almost all the shops are open as usual around Christmas. There are also European or rather German-style Christmas markets held in Tokyo, Yokohama and other cities.

If you are interested to know more or if you are thinking of visiting while you are in Japan, we’ve added in some links for you.

Source: Mori Building Co., Ltd. | ‘Christmas Market in Roppongi Hills, Tokyo’

For more info on the Roppongi Hills Xmas event in English, visit: https://www.roppongihills.com/en/sp/christmas/2022/illumination-event/market.html

Source: Yokohama Official Visitors’ Guide | ‘Christmas Market in Yokohama Red Brick Warehouse’

For more details on the Yokohama Xmas market in English, visit: https://www.yokohamajapan.com/events/detail.php?id=164

Another popular thing around Xmas to do is to go to see the fabulous winter illuminations which are held across Japan.

Here are a couple of the most beautiful winter illuminations to see in Japan.

“Tokyo Midtown Christmas 2022”

For more info on Midtown Xmas in English, visit: https://www.tokyo-midtown.com/jp/event/xmas/en.html

“Nabana no Sato” – ‘Nagashima Resort’ in Mie Prefecture

For more info on ‘Nabana no Sato’ in English, visit JNTO’s page: https://www.japan.travel/en/spot/1209/

What do Japanese people eat at Christmas?

A lot of Japanese people eat Fried Chicken and French Fries (KFC Style), Roast Chicken, or Teriyaki Chicken Legs at Christmas instead of turkey as eating turkey doesn’t seem to have gained popularity in Japan over the years. It’s often said this is because turkey isn’t readily available in Japan, and it’s expensive to buy due to the import costs.

Also, the reason for eating KFC at Christmas in Japan is due to a successful campaign called “Kentucky for Christmas” launched in 1974, which went on to become a unique Japanese tradition.

Source: Kentucky Fried Chicken Japan Ltd. | ‘KFC Christmas Party Barrel 2022’

Apart from chicken, Japanese enjoy eating Sushi, Roast beef, Pizza, Paella as well as Potato Salad at Christmas.

As for dessert, it’s not Christmas pudding that many Japanese eat. Some might have ice cream, fruit tart, or cheese cake, but one of the must-haves for Japanese at Christmas is “Strawberry Shortcake”, which is a light and fluffy sponge cake with strawberries and whipped cream.

Source: Japan Centre | Japanese Christmas Cake ‘Strawberry Sponge Cake’

If you’re interested in making one, have a look at the Japan Centre website where you can find the recipe: https://www.japancentre.com/en/recipe/1125-japanese-christmas-cake

What songs do people listen and sing at Christmas in Japan?

Absolutely all the traditional Christmas songs such as “Jingle Bells”, “Silent Night”, and “Santa Claus Is Coming To Town”. Then there are also some Japanese Christmas songs by famous Japanese artists.

Here are the standard Christmas songs that many Japanese listen or sing along to which include some of the most popular Christmas songs of all time: “Last Christmas”, and “All I want for Christmas Is You”, etc.

J-POP Christmas songs 2022

Where will be popular to visit this Christmas in Japan?

Christmas is not a national holiday in Japan, so Japanese people usually go to work, but this year as Christmas Day falls on a Sunday, quite a few people are going for a weekend trip.

Some will be going to hot springs to relax and refresh, but most of them will be visiting popular flower parks, zoos, and theme parks to see fantastic winter illuminations and attend Christmas-related events.

The top 3 theme parks to visit in Japan are Tokyo Disneyland, Tokyo DisneySea, and Universal Studios Japan in Osaka. The links here are all for the English website.

Source: Disney | Tokyo Disneyland ‘Star Bright Christmas’

Hopefully, you enjoyed reading this article and learning more about Japan and what Japanese people do at Christmas. If you want to read more about Japan, we recommend these three articles we have created:

When is the best time to visit Japan?

Japan Travel Tips: 15 Essential things to know

Japan Borders Open

Also if you’re looking to visit Japan in the near future, you might like to check the prices and availability of flights and accommodation at Booking.com and Skyscanner below.

Booking.com

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The Best Japanese Team is a community of friends and family living in the UK and Japan. Our main goal is to share accurate knowledge on Japanese food, culture, lifestyle, and travel. We also wish to support Japanese inspired creators and businesses across the world. As we grow we welcome contributions from like-minded invididuals so if this sounds like you please don’t hesitate to get in touch.

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