It’s definitely different here.
久しぶりですね！ In other words, it’s been a while! As I continue to acclimate to new surroundings, I’m happy to say I’ve written a few posts; however, I didn’t publish any of them. With the holidays wrapping up, I figured at least one more before the new year would be appropriate.
So what’s Christmas like in Japan? Well, it’s still commercial but it’s not the juggernaut you have in the United States. Santa is definitely on TV and local convenience stores play Mariah Carey’s All I want for Christmas roughly ten times every twenty minutes. You can find Christmas lights in places like Shinjuku and Yokohama of varying elaborance but if I had to rank the holiday’s significance here, I’d say it’s B-Tier. It’s very noteworthy but you don’t get the day off from work. A good comparison is Valentine’s Day in the US because Christmas Eve is the big date night where you go all out for the fancy dinner.
Did you know Colonel Sanders of KFC fame is an extremely popular character here? Did you also know that Christmas Dinner involves picking up a bucket of KFC and taking it home with you? It turns out prior to this national phenomenon, the concept of Christmas Dinner wasn’t really a thing. Japanese KFC noticed the gap and started an ad campaign that genuinely took the nation by storm. If you don’t reserve your KFC bucket(s) in October you are going to spend a very long day waiting in lines hoping to snag an unclaimed or extra bucket. The chicken isn’t even special either, it’s the standard original recipe. (Note, I was at work so I could not take photos. I am quite disappointed by this).
It doesn’t have to be KFC though. Convenience stores like Family Mart also serve fried chicken during the holiday season. This year’s posters were quite distracting. A rough translation would be Family Mart Chicken is Super-Amazing-Delicious! I cannot vouch for this claim but I like the disembodied head’s enthusiasm. I named him Family Fil for my own amusement. You can also get Strawberry Shortcake to share with a loved one.
Speaking of which, Strawberry Shortcake is the dessert to eat during the holidays. It popped up after the second World War and grew in popularity because it matched the Japanese flag’s colors. The pictured cake above goes for ￥4500 (about $40) and is meant to be split between two people. I split it with seven others because I could not let myself eat that much cake.
That’s more or less it to this very broad stroke. Christmas, while big in Japan, is not as culturally significant as other holidays. New Year’s Day is way more important here and many more stores will close for New Year’s Eve than on Christmas day. To Japanese, Christmas is another work week coupled with “are you doing anything today/tonight?” I admit this was a little disappointing to me but the holiday is still wholesome like in the United States. Whether you like fried chicken or not, Japan has comfortably made Christmas their own thing.