Celebrating Christmas in Japan 2024, Traditions and food

how do they celebrate christmas in japan

Christmas traditions in japan

Christmas is on the way! In Japan, Christmas is not a national holiday, because only about 1 percent of the population is Christian.

But, you can still feel the wonderful vibes and spirit of Christmas almost everywhere you go in the country!

Are you are planning to  visit  in December before the New Year in Japan? Then you will more than likely find a lot of traditional Christmas things. You will find Christmas decorations, Christmas markets and beautiful lights everywhere, they go all in. If you look you can also find some charming and wonderful  unique Japanese traditions. 

It may feel and be somewhat different from what you are used to at home. But, I promise you that Christmas in Japan can really bring that unique spirit to life!

When do they celebrate Christmas in Japan?

Christmas Eve on December 24, is a really big day in Japan, but not in the way you might think. In Japan, Christmas is a time for couples and friends to have nice parties and dinners.

In Japan, Christmas Eve is actually seen as the most romantic day of the year. It’s almost like Valentine’s Day in the west. There is a big pressure to have a date on this day. You don’t want to be seen out in public without a date on this day. Most couples, especially the young ones, buy each other romantic Christmas gifts. They also and go to fine romantic restaurants on this day.

New Year on the other hand is the time of the year when you come together with your family. And you visit temples and celebrate the upcoming year with food and drinks.

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Japanese Christmas Foods

Japanese Christmas Cake

So what do they eat in Japan on Christmas?

Everywhere you look, on every street corner you are almost guaranteed to find someone selling The Japanese Christmas Cake, “Kurisumasu keki”.

The light and spongy cake is filled with whipped cream filling and frosting, topped with beautifully cut red strawberries.

This is a delicious and beloved treat that is also very popular for birthdays too. Since the World War II the Japanese Christmas cake has been seen as a symbol of prosperity and as a rise from ruin.

New Year on the other hand is the time of the year when you come together with your family, visit temples and celebrate the upcoming year with food and drinks.

Recepie for The Japanese Christmas Cake

A Christmas feast at KFC in Japan

Every year, Christmas is big business for KFC in Japan. On this day 3.6 million Japanese families swarm the one and only Kentucky Fried Chicken, to get their holiday feast. Somehow this has become a big and sacred tradition that for many Japanese families embodies the Christmas spirit.

If you want to be sure to get your Christmas feast from KFC you have to order it at least six weeks in advance. Also you have to be ready to stand in line outside KFC for hours, because of the long waiting list.

Why is this a thing you ask? Takeshi Okawara started this more the 40 years ago. He was the first KFC manager in the country when and he got the idea of a “party bucket” that would be sold on Christmas.

He got the idea from a dream and he had overheard a couple of foreigners talk about how they missed the typical food at this time of the year.

Christmas spirit in Japan

Winter Wonderland

When it comes to over the top celebration and expressing festive joy, not many do it better than the Japanese. The entire country shines bright from colourful Christmas lights and decorations.

Shopping malls, public spots and restaurants display the most beautiful Christmas decorations that shine up every street and put the feeling of Christmas bliss in every heart.

One of the most famous and beautiful landmarks during Christmas is the Tokyo Station and the Kaiyukan Aquarium in Osaka.

Christmas Markets in Japan

All over Japan you can find wonderful and typical Christmas markets during the winter season. If you visit Tokyo or any other city in Japan during this time you will find everything from beautiful Christmas tree decorations to people selling mulled wine.

Our top recommendations are to visit the Tokyo Christmas Market from December 16th to 25th in Hibiya Park and the Christmas market in Sapporo.

Disney Christmas magic

If you are looking for a Christmas wonderland we can really recommend that you visit Disneyland Tokyo during this period. They put on special events at this time such as “Christmas Fantasy”.

This is a top recommendation, especially if you are visiting with your children.

Christmas Shopping in Japan

Who doesn’t love a little Holiday shopping? During this period you will find traditional Christmas trees, decorations and loads of other things at most of the major shopping malls and stores.

Christmas weather 2023

December is usually a dry and sunny month in Japan. But, if you travel more north you will find a lot of snow during Christmas and The Japanese Alps have some of the best ski resorts you can find in the world.

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