Christmas in Japan (in general, anyway)

Thanks to the time-zone difference, tomorrow is already Christmas here in Japan. You’d hardly know it, though. It’s business as usual in Japan on Christmas, but I thought I’d talk about a few things that people do seem to do here to celebrate.

First, Japan treats the New Year like their Christmas. Everything here shuts down from around Dec. 30 to Jan. 4 just like how in America everything gets shut down for Christmas.

People like to spend the New Year with family members, so Christmas is the opposite. Christmas here is like Valentine’s Day in America where you get a nice dinner reservation somewhere, give the person you love a nice gift and then go to somewhere that has Christmas lights up to just walk around and bask in the love. Most individual households here don’t put up Christmas lights, so to see anything like that, you have to go to parts of Tokyo or to a theme park. The lights usually stay up well into February, too. Tokyo Disneyland and DisneySea are huge dating spots, especially for Christmas.

If you have kids or just don’t feel like splurging on expensive “Christmas dinner” packages at fancy restaurants, then you generally buy some fried chicken (the story goes Americans living here a while back were spotted buying KFC on Christmas to kind of make up for not finding any turkey, and Japanese copied them. I have no idea how true this story is), maybe some pizza, and a Christmas cake. Christmas cakes here are usually sponge cake covered in whipped cream-like frosting and topped with strawberries. To me, they taste like sugary air.

I asked a few Japanese friends who have kids about presents, and they said they give a couple of small gifts, but it’s not the mountain of gifts you can sometimes witness in America. However, I have heard these same friends say they like to just randomly buy their kids nice presents throughout the year so maybe it’s just a difference of timing.

Merry Christmas, everyone!