Gauss-Advent Calendar: メリークリスマス – Christmas in Japan
by Fangzheng Sun
For Japanese, Christmas is undoubtedly the most important festival in winter. As in many Asian countries, Christmas is not a traditional celebration in Japan. I was in Japan in the winter of 2016 and spent an unforgettable Christmas in Tokyo. I have also heard a lot from my friends who studied in Japan about how they spent Christmas in Japan. I am very happy to have the opportunity to tell you about our experiences.
After the Meiji Restoration in 1868, which also brought a political change oriented towards Western politics, Christmas was introduced in Japan. Initially, the festival also had a religious meaning in Japan, but over time it shed its religious coat and became a “Valentine’s Day” with a strong romantic meaning.
In Japan, Christmas is inextricably linked with colourful, decorative lights. Christmas lights have become a Christmas tradition with Japanese characteristics. Whether you go to an affluent city or a quiet village, people like to come to a crowded place to see the lights on Christmas night. Young couples come to have a romantic Christmas time and take a lot of pictures. Hence, if you want to see special lighting during the Christmas season in Japan, coming to Tokyo is a good choice. Moreover, there is a particularly noteworthy legend about Tokyo: If a couple stands under the Tokyo Tower on Christmas Eve, they will spend the rest of their lives together.
If you are a fan of Disney, you cannot miss Disneyland in Tokyo. On Christmas Day, the park organizes a special Christmas firework display and parade. You can also take lots of nice photos, for example with Mickey Mouse as Father Christmas.
Of course, Christmas is also a good time to do some shopping in Japan. Every shop has reduced prices during this time. Basically, the discount campaigns run from mid to late December. All major brands have discounts of up to 50% and some Japanese brands even offer 90%. If you want to buy household appliances, electronics, cosmetics etc., it is a good idea to go shopping in Japan during the Christmas season.
Furthermore, a typical Japanese Christmas tradition is to go to KFC for fried chicken. The story goes that KFC entered the Japanese market in the 1970s and their business was not running well. One Christmas Day, a foreigner went to a KFC branch to buy fried chicken and said, “There’s no turkey in Japan; they only sell fried chicken for Christmas.” Inspired by this event, KFC started a Christmas promotion in Japan in 1974 with the slogan “KFC will surely be eaten at Christmas”. Perhaps this campaign goes very well because the figure of KFC looks like Father Christmas. Since then, young people like to queue up at KFC to get a bite of the limited edition of fried Christmas chicken.