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Tips for Celebrating the Holidays in Japan

Christmas in Japan usually is just another working day for the hoards of salarymen and women.

By 2 min read 6

One of the best things about living abroad is the chance to experience the holidays from a different culture. It’s not all good, of course. More often than not, I’ve found that the holidays and traditions I grew up celebrating don’t carry any weight in Japan.

For instance, yesterday I found out that my husband has to work on Christmas. It didn’t come up in conversation before, because he just assumed that I knew most companies in Japan don’t give you Christmas off.


I’ve lived abroad for over five years now (Ghana and Japan) and have picked up a couple tricks from other expats for celebrating the holidays abroad.

1. Compromise

When I was living in Ghana, we weren’t able to find a turkey for Thanksgiving. Now that we’re in Tokyo we can find a turkey, but don’t have access to an oven large enough to cook it.

If you’re living abroad, chances are you won’t be able to find the treats that make your holiday nostalgic. Try not to lose sight of what the holiday is really about, though.

2. Consider celebrating on a different day

This year, I threw a 4th of July BBQ on the 5th of July (Saturday), since most of my friends have work on weekdays. We typically celebrate Thanksgiving the Saturday after Thanksgiving as well. Since my husband has to work on Christmas, we’re going to celebrate the holiday the following weekend, with a romantic getaway.

In the end, a day is just a day. You can celebrate the holiday whenever you want.

3. Reach out to other expats

Depression strikes in full-force around the holidays. If you’ve just switched countries or are otherwise celebrating the holidays alone, consider reaching out to other expats and organizing some sort of party. Everyone can bring their favorite dish. It’s a great way to meet new people and can give you a little slice of home.

4. Keep low expectations and get creative.

You would be surprised by how much of a difference a cheap Christmas tree, some scented candles, and a Youtube playlist of Christmas caroling can make. As long as you remember that you’re in Japan (so of course, it’s going to be a little bit different), you can end up having a rather fun and memorable holiday season.

What about you? Do you have any tips for celebrating the holidays in Japan?

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