For a non-Christian country, Japan still has a lot to do around this magical time of year. Whether you’d like a hint of Japanese crazy or something a bit more traditional to remind you of home, there’s plenty to do.
Here are our top things to try out for Christmas in Japan!
Christmas markets and shopping
A favourite for many Europeans, thankfully Japan has embraced this tradition too. There are plenty around Tokyo and beyond and one that particularly brings the cosy feel of the markets to Japan is the Yokohama one at the red brick warehouse. Not only is it huge but it feels a bit more like home for many Europeans because of the architecture in the area having a somewhat Western feel to it. The Christmas markets are also a great place to spend Christmas day itself if you’re feeling a little homesick. There’s nothing a glass of Gluhwein and a bratwurst can’t fix.
Shopping feels a little less magical than the other Christmas delights in Japan but is still noteworthy. While present giving is less prominent there are still plenty of sales on and it’s a great time to snap up a bargain.
How about a date?
While in many Christian countries, Christmas is about spending time with family and friends, for Japan, it’s more like a second (or even third, if we count White day) Valentine’s day. If you’re coupled up around this time year then you better have bought your loved one a present and be taking them out for a nice meal. If you’re not prepared and decide to go out for food on Christmas Eve, it’s likely you’ll find most places fully booked and filled with couples on dates.
If you don’t know about this one already then it’s likely that you’ve been living under a rock. A deliciously wonderful marketing campaign in the 70’s now means that a large portion of Japan thinks that eating fried chicken and specifically KFC is what much of the western world does for Christmas dinner. They’ve wholeheartedly embraced it and you’ll need to think about booking your seat at your local KFC at the start of the autumn months, otherwise you’ll miss out. If you don’t fancy queuing at your local then FamilyMart and other konbinis have jumped on the bandwagon and offer their own fried chicken buckets for advanced ordering.
Christmas cake tends to vary around the world but in many places, the main components are the same. It’s often a type of heavier fruitcake and all about the decoration. Japan, of course, does it a little differently. Strawberry shortcake is the cake of choice in this wonderfully weird country. Many parts of the world associate strawberries with the summertime but they’re popular around Christmas in Japan. The cakes are very light and I would say, albeit controversially, that this is a much better treat after a heavy Christmas dinner. Don’t worry though, the decorations are just as wonderful even if it’s a little lighter on the marzipan.
Disneyland parks around the world are known for their themed holidays. When you combine this with Japan, the country that likes everything themed, you get the Disneyland Christmas spectacular. Combining all your favourite characters in Christmas attire, lights everywhere, tasty Christmas treats and a most magical parade, you can’t go wrong. With DisneySea right next door, why not make the most of it and lose yourself in the wonder of it all and follow it up with a quick drink too.
Japan does Christmas illuminations like no other country. They are everywhere you look in the major cities around Christmas time but even tend to stretch from November through to the end of January in many cases. We love them so much we’ve put together our guide of the top Christmas Illuminations in Tokyo. While some of the busier spots might seem a bit overwhelming with all the bright lights and crowds, there are plenty of smaller alternative spots that have a bit more of a relaxed atmosphere like Shinjuku Gyoen.
It might not be what you’re quite used to in your own country but it is uniquely Japanese, and that is what makes Christmas in Japan something special. So why not take your date to KFC and follow it up with some cake under the Christmas lights?