While Christianity remains a minority religion in Japan, Christmas has become a popular, widely celebrated event across the country. The festive season has taken on a life of its own, blending Western traditions with uniquely Japanese twists.
The holiday decorations start coming out in Japan as early as late November. Illuminated trees and glittering lights adorn shopping areas, amusement parks like Tokyo Disneyland, and public spaces. It’s common to see gigantic Christmas trees in popular destinations, like the massive tree in Shibuya crossing, a famous and busy intersection in Tokyo.
Gift giving is also practiced around Christmas time, especially among young couples and friends. Stores market Christmas cake, fried chicken, and other holiday goods weeks in advance to capture sales. KFC achieved such popularity for its American-style Christmas meal that customers have to place orders months ahead to secure a fried chicken Christmas dinner!
Another tradition that has emerged is gathering for a Christmas Eve meal at a restaurant instead of on the actual day. Booking a table weeks or months in advance is a must for popular eateries. The Christmas Eve dinner typically consists of a romantic, candles-and-wine style meal for couples and a night out with friends.
And what’s a holiday without unique decorations and costumes? Department stores hire locals to dress up as Santa Claus or as Christmas characters, and carolers stroll the decorated shopping aisles. Costumed Santas even attend formal Christmas events hosted by officials and dignitaries.
So while most Japanese people don’t celebrate Christmas for religious reasons, they certainly celebrate it as a joyous annual tradition and holiday season. The festival has blended Western practices with a distinct, only-in-Japan vibe, adding to its national winter charm. Christmas in Japan may not look traditional, but it has become an iconic part of the country’s end-of-year cheer.