Christmas in Japan is an interesting holiday to explore. While it is not a national holiday, the Japanese have adopted their own special ways to celebrate. They have embraced the holiday in a unique way, incorporating some Western traditions while developing their own customs.
For example, while many Western countries observe traditional church services and gift-giving, Christmas in Japan is more oriented around dining out with family and friends, and couples often spend the day together exchanging gifts as a symbol of love.
Gift-giving has been an important part of Japanese culture for centuries, and the holiday season is no exception. Common gifts include food, clothing items, and jewelry. When it comes to couples, women usually gift chocolates, cakes, or something they have hand-knitted themselves.
When it comes to gifs for women, men typically go above and beyond. It is a common practice to exchange lavish gifts with their partner or loved one on Christmas.
For example, popular gift items include expensive jewelry, designer clothes, expensive perfume, and luxury items such as a trip to a luxurious resort or spa. Clothing items are also popular, such as elegant kimonos or fashionable dresses.
Christmas in families with little children may not be so different than in other countries. Young children believe in Santa Claus, and families spend time together, exchanging gifts and having dinner together. The traditional food Japanese have for Christmas may come to foreigners as a surprise. It is KFC chicken.
Why is that? During the 70s KFC lounged a huge campaign mostly for tourists and ex-pats, advertising their chicken as a substitute for turkey. The campaign became a huge success amongst the Japanese and has become now a tradition. If you are in Japan during Christmas, definitely have a taste of some Christmas KFC.
In case you are in a relationship and want to have a fancy Christmas dinner, make a reservation as soon as possible to one of VMG’s many restaurants. The restaurants are located inside hotels, so instead of just going out to dinner you can plan a small trip as a surprise for your partner.
You have the choice to either book a table or an entire private room with spectacular views. The restaurant plans a special menu for every Christmas, with champagne, high-quality meat, and other mouthwatering dishes.
Another traditional food in Japan is the Christmas cake. This is usually a kind of sponge cake topped with whipped cream and fruit, and the message “Merry Christmas” is often written on the top. One of the most popular bakeries for Christmas cakes is located inside the hotel Gajoen Tokyo, the PATISSERIE「栞杏 1928」, Shiori 1928.
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The owner likes to experiment with flavors, often creating new desserts while still respecting the traditional ones. If you want to have one of their cakes for Christmas, make your reservation in advance. Otherwise, you can try their different desserts by either visiting the patisserie or ordering online.
In the photo, you can see an example of the strawberry shortcake offered at Shiori An in 1928. The price is ￥4,600, which is around 34$ or 32€.
When it comes to winter activities, Japan has a plethora of them. A magical winter illumination fills the towns and cities during this time of the year.
Starting in mid-November, areas like Tokyo, Kyoto, and Osaka come alive with decorations of light and snowflake motifs. Besides shopping malls and famous city landmarks, many parks are also decorated for the special occasion.
For example, in Tokyo, the Disney Resort and in Osaka the Universal Studios are transformed into holiday wonderlands. Japan’s romantic illumination displays attract tourists from all around the world to admire the beauty of its luscious illuminated landscape.
Being inspired by the Germans, the Japanese also enjoy Christmas markets during November and December. Some of them may be German-themed, offering bratwurst, warm wine, or various Christmas crafts. The most popular one is the Roppongi Hills Christmas Market, inspired by Stuttgart, Germany’s largest Christmas market.
Christmas in Japan is a unique and exciting experience filled with romance, illuminated winter scenery, and couples, lots of couples. While the day may not be as traditional or well-known as Christmas in many Western countries, it is still a very important holiday for many.