I spent last Christmas in Japan. It was pretty amazing, but not in a traditional Christmas-y way. As Japan is Shinto and Buddhist, the “Christian” side of Christmas is pretty much irrelevant. This means, the Japanese take many of the fun and beautiful parts of Christmas and make it into メリークリスマス (Meri-Kurisumasu).
Christmas Eve is seen as a very romantic night to go out on a date, and most restaurants only cater for couples on this night. It can also be very difficult to get a booking, if you don’t book ahead. Couples exchange gifts and often walk around looking at the many spectacular lights. The illumination in Tokyo was superb and Kyoto was also beautiful, in a less glitzy kind of way. The lights were probably my favourite thing. Oh, and the cold. Although it didn’t snow, this was the first cold Christmas I had ever experienced. Coming from Australia, we quite often have 30 degree plus days….. it is the middle of Summer. The crisp air and the beautiful lights were such a highlight for me.
Christmas Eve is also when families enjoy a Japanese Christmas Cake (sponge cake). Readily available from 7 Eleven, Lawsons and most other kombini, these cakes are quite spectacular, with Santa and decorations. My daughter really enjoyed this.
Many people have the tradition of eating fried chicken on Christmas Day and KFC is a very popular choice. It is ordered well in advance and is one of the busiest days of the year for them.
Our Christmas Day in Japan was spent at Universal Studios in Osaka with our friends. It was an absolute blast. We had a big, traditional roast dinner in Hogsmeade at The Three Broomsticks, complete with butter beer and we so enjoyed our day, surrounded by many hundreds of Santas, all dressed up for their date days at Universal Studios Japan.