Christmas in Japan: 10 Fun Facts and Traditions
The festival is still celebrated across Japan even though it is not a recognized as a public holiday. The truth is that the holiday season usually starts celebrating as early as mid-October.
Ten intriguing customs and facts about Japan that you should be aware of if you happen to be celebrating Christmas there are listed below. In brief, and not too dissimilar from other East and Southeast Asian nations, Christmas is defined in the Land of the Rising Sun as something more enjoyable and secular. Love, delicious cuisine, and sparkling seas of holiday decorations are also in the air at this time of year.
1. Enjoying Winter Illuminations
Each winter, festive light displays take center stage across Japan, with some starting as early as mid-October. Christmas is typical, if not always, the dominant theme, even though the event is generally intended to be a year-end celebration. In other words, the main attractions are typically enormous, illuminated Christmas trees.
Some of the top locations to experience Japanese winter illuminations and lights each year include the following:
Tokyo: As the capital and a city with a high population density, Tokyo plays host to a variety of stunning light displays and festivities every November and December. The well-liked and frequently artistic illuminations in Caretta Shiodome, Tokyo Midtown, and Roppongi Hills are a few examples. Another option is the moody Ao no Dokutsu walk of Shibuya, which has a blue theme. Additionally, there are a variety of Yuletide markets at well-known hangouts like Yebisu Garden Place.
Osaka and Kobe, two Kansai cities, hold festive year-end light-ups each year, just like Tokyo. At Nakanoshima Park in Osaka, the Osaka Hikari Renaissance exhibits vibrant art projects on old structures. The Kobe Luminarie, which was originally intended as a monument to the Great Hanshin Earthquake victims, is today a significant Christmas tradition cherished by locals and visitors alike.
Parks: Some of the most beautiful and intricate illuminations may be found in park attractions like Ashikaga Flower Park and Nabano no Sato. Given the size of these light-ups, it is hardly an overstatement to claim that entering one after dusk is like entering a fairy realm.
Train Stations: Every year, larger train stations like Kyoto Station, Umeda Station, and Hakata Station decorate their nativities in elaborate, picture-perfect ways. As an illustration, a big Christmas tree is present to welcome all train passengers arriving in Kyoto each December. a building that occupies the entire space of the enormous atrium.
Historical Monuments: Historical locations like Kyoto’s Nijo Castle have recently held artistic light-up events. These stand out because evening hours are nearly always spent at nighttime closing times for these attractions. In other words, the light-ups provide wonderful opportunities for visiting them after dark.
2. Visiting Christmas Markets
Numerous shopping centers, transportation hubs, and downtown districts will also set up festive markets in addition to holiday illuminations. Similar to markets abroad, this one offers a selection of delectable foods, shopping, and festive performances. The top five Christmas markets in Japan each year are listed below.
Roppongi Hills Christmas Market: The German-themed markets at Roppongi Hills have been a hit with locals and visitors for more than ten years.
The Yokohama Red Brick Warehouse Christmas Market, held in one of the most romantic and nostalgic locations, is the ideal evening gathering place for both young and old.
Hakata Station Christmas Market: A sizable market is held yearly in the enormous square in front of Hakata Station. One with nightly shows and creative light art installations.
Umeda Sky Tower German Christmas Market: This joyous market has been a popular December destination in Osaka for several years.
The largest northern city in Japan, Sapporo, is chilly in December. But that serves to enhance the joyous atmosphere of its yearly German market. One that happens in the middle of the city, just in front of the well-known Sapporo TV Tower.
3. A Holiday for Lovers
If you enjoy anime, you could believe that Christmas is celebrated with affection in Japan. Numerous Christmas-themed romance-themed anime shows have episodes.
This is the case, with Eve in particular being thought of as the ideal day for lovers. Couples would typically sit down to a lavish holiday supper and then perhaps attend one of the several illumination activities listed above. It goes without saying that during this season, department stores will all enthusiastically promote romantic gifts. Even if you don’t end up buying anything, it might be fun to just look around the cheery stores.
4. Meeting up with Friends and Exchanging Presents
Christmas in Japan is not solely a romantic holiday, to be sure. It is also the ideal day for the young to get together and unwind because the day itself falls on Japan’s Winter Break. Naturally, the highlight of such gatherings is frequently the gift exchange.
5. Japanese Children Love Christmas! And Santa!
Japanese kids love Christmas much like their Western counterparts do because it’s a time for gifts! Even though just 1% of Japanese people identify as Christians, many families, especially those with young children, decorate their homes for the holidays in December. Parents will often plan gifts as well.
Santa Claus is unquestionably everywhere! especially at significant department stores like Takashimaya and Wako. Festive displays with the jolly gift-bringer and his elves at some locations may also be very artistic. making them magnificent for all guests to observe.
6. Enjoying Christmas Cakes and Pastries, Especially Strawberry Shortcake
In Japan, the months of November and December are when the nation’s famed pastry sector showcases its most delicious treats and inventions. Such festive cakes are excellent for experiencing the best of various cuisines because many confectioneries also incorporate seasonal Japanese flavors like Yuzu and Oguri, or chestnuts, into their creations.
The Japanese take on strawberry shortcake is by far the most well-liked of the several varieties of pastries offered. And some people even regard this delicacy as the essential Japanese Christmas cake. For how this occurred, there is no obvious answer. But it is most likely because the color of strawberry cakes goes well with the current season. According to anthropologist David W. Plath, the appeal of western riches during the post-World War II period of economic recovery was also a result of a desire to emulate it.
7. Eating Kentucky Fried Chicken
Here is a Christmas custom from Japan that will surprise you. Fried chicken is typically served for Christmas dinner. Kentucky Fried Chicken in particular.
Yes, you did read that correctly. Kentucky Fried Chicken is a seasonal treat that is a must-have for many Japanese people. Meandering queues at KFC restaurants or for family pre-orders are not unusual on Christmas Eve and the actual day.
This odd practice, according to “history,” started in 1970 when the fast-food restaurant business began to advertise its party barrels as alternatives to turkey. The chain continued to build upon this advertising in 1974 with a broad, well-received national campaign. This custom is so well-liked that during the 2012 season, KFC meals were served onboard Japan Airlines. When visiting Japan during the holidays, don’t forget to join in the fun and get some delicious treats for yourself!
8. Visiting Disneyland or Other Major Theme Parks
Theme parks are the only locations in Japan that celebrate Christmas with as much color and vigor as hotspots for winter illumination. Major amusement parks like Tokyo Disneyland and Universal Studios Japan regularly feature special shows, parades, and holiday lighting displays. Many Japanese people, in particular, believe that Disneyland is the happiest place to be on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.
Here’s a crucial point, though. Be prepared for crowds if you want to visit any significant Japanese theme parks on or around April 25. The dates fall within the winter vacation for Japanese schools. Popular rides and shows may have hour-long lines.
9. Performing Christmas Music
Similar to other nations that commemorate the birth of Christ, music is an integral feature of holiday celebrations. Buskers frequently can be seen singing carols or other holiday tunes in downtown districts throughout November and December. Japanese amateur musicians have made it “customary” in recent years to upload holiday performances to YouTube. One instance would be keyboardists performing beautiful interpretations of traditional carols every holiday season.
Japan also has its original holiday compositions. Here are a few of the most well-known:
Shiroi Koibitotachi by Keisuke Kuwata.
Hurry Christmas by L’Arc-en-Ciel.
Merry Christmas by Bump of Chicken.
Yuki no Christmas by Dreams Come True.
Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence by Ryuichi Sakamoto.
10. Stollen Is a Big Trend
In December, German Christmas markets appear in all of the major cities of Japan. The Japanese seem to enjoy many of the Christmas customs that Germany has to offer. Recently, it is observed that the German bread known as stollen appears to be having a moment. Most bakeries and specialty food stores carry these nut- and dried fruit-filled loaves.
They cost between $15 and $20 a loaf, which is not cheap. It is fortunate that they often have a lengthy shelf life and can be enjoyed gradually over a few weeks. However, I have seen some typical grocery stores selling mini loaves that are a little less expensive. It somehow manages to be the ideal holiday treat thanks to the distinctive sprinkling of white powdered sugar. I prefer those with baked-in marzipan or almond paste.
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