Mariah and the Colonel: It’s Christmas in Japan

Since I’m new here, I don’t really understand how Christmas works in Japan. From a commercial perspective,  it feels pretty similar to the states: trees, light displays (called illuminations), and loads of holiday gift deals.  Loads of Christmas commercials, (minus Santa). You can’t walk into any department store without hearing Mariah Carey’s Christmas anthem, and the 100 yen shops are filled with every kind of ornament, light, Santa costume, and Christmas card you can possibly imagine.

japan illuminations   photo credit: John Asano, GaijinPot

Hannakah, on the other hand, is no where… at all.  In fact I’ve polled a few of my students and it seems like most Japanese people don’t even know what Hannakah is. (I know right?)

Anyway, there are a few differences. One, Japan is largely Buddhist and Shintoism, so recognizing the holiday is more of a “festival” as one local told me, not a religious observance– so yeah, most people work. It slightly smacks of Valentine’s Day- an evening for couples to get together, drink champagne, exchange a gift or two and share Christmas cake (very prettily decorated strawberry shortcake, or swedish-style princess cake).
Japanese Christmas Cake photo credit: Flickr, Shibuya 246

But Christmas dinner in Japan is my absolute favorite fun fact- I’d heard it before but thought it was another one of those dated cultural myths about Japan… But it’s totally true. Japanese people eat KFC chicken for Christmas dinner (known as “Christmas Chicken.”) YEP. Here, KFC is popular in general, but during the Christmas season you must PRE-ORDER your chicken, often weeks in advance, because it sells out so quickly.

Too bad I’ll miss the finger licking holiday, but I’m gearing up for my US holiday tour, my first trip to Texas for the big day, then home to my beautiful San Francisco.

packing light

Passport, camera, notebook, olive oil hand cream… let’s GO.

Still waaaaay to much to do before heading out. Holiday rush is in full swing! ACK!

Dashing and dancing… whew!


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