How to Spend Christmas in Japan Just Like Back Home
By John Asano
On December 20, 2014
Christmas is just around the corner, so it’s time to share some of my experience of spending many a Christmas here in Japan. As you can imagine, Christmas in Japan is very different from back home in Australia. The special event here is Christmas Eve, which is like a second romantic Valentine’s Day for couples.
You’ll find popular restaurants and hotels will be fully booked out during this time as couples go out on a romantic dinner date and exchange gifts. There is even a famous song in Japan “Koibito ga santa kurousu“ (恋人がサンタクロース), which means my lover is Santa Claus, and this is very true around this time of the year.
Traditional Christmas food in Japan includes a KFC Chicken Dinner. Chicken has become synonymous with Christmas in Japan since KFC launched their advertising campaign back in the 1970s. An interesting sight is the Colonel dressed up in Santa gear outside your local KFC. It is estimated that around 1 in 3 Japanese adults will eat fried chicken this Christmas!
A quick history of Christmas in Japan. Christmas was first celebrated in Japan during the Sengoku jidai (Warring States Period), in the 16th Century. It was during this time that a missionary, Francis Xavier introduced Christianity to Japan. The modern celebration of Christmas in Japan first started around 1900 during the Meiji Restoration when Japan opened up to the West after a long period of isolation.
Japanese Christmas Cake (sponge cake) first hit the streets in the 1920s at department stores in Ginza, Tokyo. KFC started their Christmas Fried Chicken marketing campaign in the 1970s and the rest as they say is history.
Enough about these Japanese traditions. I want to spend a festive Christmas like back home in Australia with a nice spread for the family. How can I do it? Here are a few tips I’ve picked up over the years as to where to buy those essential Christmas items in Japan.
Kaldi Coffee Farm
Kaldi is probably my favourite foreign import store in Japan and they stock all sorts of Christmas goodies. I usually pick up my Christmas shortbread, snacks, chocolate, cheese, and wine from here.
Seijyo-ishi is a foreign food supermarket that stocks a large selection of foreign food and snacks. You can find a decent selection of wine, cheese, and chocolate here.
Costco has a huge selection of American and Western food at low prices. They stock just about everything, so you shouldn’t have any trouble finding what you need if you have a membership.
Amika is a frozen food specialist supermarket that a lot of restaurants here in Japan use to stock their kitchens. They stock a large amount of frozen Western food including whole chicken, turkey breast, and McCain products.
Don Quijote is a discount chain store that carries a wide range of products from groceries to electronics to clothing. You can find some western food and snacks there, but they are great for that Christmas costume to make your party more fun.
Loft is a Japanese chain store that stocks a wide range of Christmas decorations, trees, and lights.
Tokyu Hands is a Japanese department store with a wide range of Christmas goodies like Loft.
This by all means is not a complete list. It is a summary of a few of my favourite places to shop at this time of the year. I’m sure you have many great tips as well. Please leave your advice in the comments below, if you have found any great places and stores in Japan to buy those essential Christmas items.
I hope you all have a Merry Christmas!