Christmas in Japan: Is it Celebrated?

Christmas in Japan: Is it Celebrated?

Christmas is almost here and we can barely contain our excitement!

You might be surprised to learn that Japan celebrates Christmas in its own unique way!

While not quite as impressive as Christmas celebrations in the US or Europe, it is still a holiday that is enjoyed and really looked forward to.

Let’s find out exactly how Christmas is celebrated in Japan

How is Christmas Celebrated in Japan?

While there is no religious connection to Christmas in Japan (less than 1% of the population is Christian), the holiday is still celebrated across Japan.


Christmas Market in Sapporo, HokkaidoChristmas Market in Sapporo, Hokkaido | Source: FPCJ

In Japan, Christmas is not traditionally a family celebration. Usually, Japanese families come together for the New Year, although it is getting more and more popular to gather during Christmas as well. 

Rather, Christmas is known as a couples’ holiday! 

Loved-up couples go out to eat at romantic restaurants, view the beautiful Christmas illuminations and exchange small presents.

In general, present-giving is not a part of the celebration in Japan. Rather than presents, Christmas is spent trying to spread happiness through small gestures, such as paying for someone’s drink, or just invite them out to do something social.

In the west, Christmas dinner is one of the year’s most anticipated meals! The feast varies from country to country, family to family and dinner table to dinner table, but a hot and delicious turkey is often present!

However, Japan has its own unique Christmas dinner...

Enjoy A Unique Christmas Dinner in Japan

Japan has a unique Christmas dinner tradition, quite different from the rest of the world!

Surprisingly, Kentucky Fried Chicken is the Christmas dinner of choice in Japan, thanks to a clever seasonal promotional campaign that started in the 1970s.


KFC Japan Christmas DinnerSource: KFC Japan

People place their KFC order from days to weeks in advance or you can choose to brave the long line outside KFC stores on Christmas Day!

It Wouldn't Be Christmas Without Dessert!

The Japanese Christmas cake (クリスマスケーキ / kurisumasu keki) is a spongy and light dessert, topped with whipped cream and freshly cut strawberries.


Just One Cookbook's Strawberry Shortcake RecipeSource: Just One Cookbook

The strawberry shortcake rose in popularity in Japan after World War II and is a symbol of prosperity. It’s also the perfect finish to your deep-fried chicken dinner!

Festive Christmas Decorations in Japan

All over Japan, you’ll find homes, offices and stores decorated with Christmas lights, decorations and Christmas trees.


Japanese store decorated with a Christmas treeKawaii Japanese store window decorated with a Christmas tree

Christmas markets are popular in Japan this time of year, so you can be sure to find a festive decoration to brighten up your holiday season.


Japanese stain station with Christmas decorationsJapanese stain station with Christmas decorations

Bright and beautiful illuminations, all over Japan, are also the ultimate decoration to get you in the festive spirit!

Top 5 Free Winter Illuminations to Visit in Japan

Walking the streets of Japan from November onwards, you’ll definitely discover some beautiful winter illuminations unlike anywhere else. These illuminations attract crowds from all across Japan, as it's the perfect winter evening activity to do with a group of friends or someone special.

Here are our top winter illuminations sights in Osaka and Tokyo.

1. Midosuji Illumination (Osaka)

Midosuji Boulevard is a 4-kilometer road that stretches from x to x. The street is lined with ginko trees, which turn a beautiful golden yellow color in autumn, and are then covered with blue and purple lights for the winter illumination. This illumination runs from 4 November to 31 December.



2. Osaka Hikari-Renaissance (Osaka)

Hikari-Renaissance is an Art Festival of Lights, hosted in Nakanoshima Park. This year’s highlights include the lighting up of the Osaka City Central Public Hall and a synchronized display of lights and music and along a 150metre street. This illumination runs from 14 to 25 December (5pm - 10pm).

3. Caretta Shiodome Winter Illumination (Tokyo)

Located in the Caretta Shiodome mall, this is a popular illumination site. This illumination has a different theme every year and this year’s theme is Arabian Nights. This illumination runs from 14 November to 14 February (5pm - 11pm).

4. Marunouchi Illumination (Tokyo)

Marunouchi Illumination will celebrate its 18th year this winter! More than 200 trees are decorated with 1 million gold LED lights along a 1.2 kilometre shopping street of Marunouchi. This winter illumination runs from 7 November to 16 February (5pm - 11pm).

5. Kobe Luminarie (Near Osaka)

Reminiscent of a Gothic Cathedral this famous illumination honors the victims of the 1995 Hanshin Earthquake. This spectacular light-up event runs from 6 to 15 December. 


Kobe LuminarieSource: The Mainichi

Last-Minute Christmas Shopping

Are you in need of a last-minute Christmas gift? You can now give a ZenPop subscription box as a gift, with our new 'Give as Gift' option.

Surprise someone with a delicious box of delicious ramen, snacks, candy or kawaii stationery, from Japan!


ZenPop's December Packs Theme: Happy HolidaysZenPop's December Happy Holidays Packs


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