Christmas, a predominantly Western celebration, spread to Japan during the 1960s. According to German Japanologist, Klaus Kracht, Christmas initially took root in Japan due to the country’s desire to be accepted into the wider international society after its period of isolation ended. Now, more and more Japanese people are adopting this present-giving, joy-spreading time of year. But how similar is Christmas in Japan compared to a traditional Western Christmas and what steps can you take to make your Christmas a little more Japanese?
Christmas in Japan: the Facts
Despite being one of the top ten countries with the highest population, there are very few Christians residing in Japan. As a result, Christmas in Japan is not a national religious holiday but is rather celebrated as a secular festival.
The most popular gift? According to a survey by toy maker Bandai Co., electronic computer games are on the top of Japan’s Christmas shopping list for the 6th year running.
Christmas Eve in Japan is commonly regarded as a romantic time where couples are encouraged to wine and dine together and exchange presents.
Japan’s new Christmas tradition: a fried chicken Christmas. After capitalising on the newly emerging popularity of Christmas in Japan, KFC’s 1970s ‘Kentucky Fried Christmas’ campaign now sees around 3.6 million households eating fried chicken on Christmas day each year.
Similar to Western culture, Santa regularly features in a Japanese Christmas. Called Mr Santa (santa-san), Japanese children believe that the jolly man in a red coat brings them presents each year. Santa is also a common decoration on Japanese Christmas cakes, depicted alongside trees and flowers.
Unlike traditional Western fruit cake, Japanese Christmas cake is a light sponge cake decorated with strawberries and whipped cream.
The Japanese also like to light up their streets in celebration of Christmas. If you are going to be in Japan over the festive period, make sure you check out some of the best winter illuminations in Japan’s capital, Tokyo.
How to fashion a Japanese Christmas in the UK
Probably one of the most exciting parts of Christmas is the food. To make your Christmas a little more Japan-esque, why not switch the fruity Christmas cake for a Japanese Christmas cake and try whipping up a few of these Japanese winter recipes as additions to your usual festive banquet? If you’re feeling particular adventurous, make your Christmas that extra bit Japanese by laying the table using traditional Japanese tableware such as crackleglaze Japanese plates and Japanese chopsticks (do not fear: if the thought of using chopsticks fills you with dread, our step-by-step guide on how to use chopsticks will have you chopstick-ready before the big day).
As if we needed an excuse to buy fantastic Japanese goods, investing in Japanese products is a perfect way to introduce Japanese culture into your Christmas. From luxurious silk kimonos to wonderfully hand-crafted kokeshi dolls, look no further than The Japanese Shop for all of your Japanese Christmas gift needs.