Disney Japan Torii Gate.

Christmas in the Land of the Rising Sun

Christmas is just a few days away and there’s no better time to experience the holiday season than in Japan. Christmas in Japan is more of a celebration of family than a religious event. Though Japan is largely non-Catholic, it’s difficult not to get caught up in all the holiday cheers and the spirit of the season. There are a number of festivities and traditions that are lined up to make the merriest time of the year be more spectacular to cap of the year in the land of the rising sun!

Christmas illumination, Kichijoji, Japan.

The story of Christmas in Japan

Christmas came to Japan when the missionary Francis Xavier introduced Christianity to the country.

Christmas illumination, Kichijoji, Japan. | Naoki Nakashima

The first Christmas service was held in 1552 and to honor the holiday spirit, donations were given to the less privileged farmers. During the Tokugawa Shogunate, an era of isolation led to the widespread prosecution of Christians and the disappearance of public practice of the Christian faith. Christianity was again allowed in Japan in 1873. Christianity at the time meant large lavish parties for visiting foreigners. Santa Claus was introduced a year later. Commercialism and trendsetting magazines geared towards the younger generation advertised the concept of Christmas as being a day for romance, hence the Japanese concept of Christmas equals Romance.

Japanese Christmas cake.

Christmas traditions in Japan

Christmas cake –  Christmas cake is a must-have during the holidays. Popularized in the 1970s and traditionally served on Christmas Eve, the cake is frosted with butter cream or whipped cream, decorated with strawberries, and often topped with chocolates and other fruits.

Japanese Christmas cake. | Hiro – Kokoro☆Photo

Seasonal illuminations- Seasonal illuminations are a glorious sight in the larger cities all across Japan. The dazzling light displays begin sometime in November and run until New Year or even until Valentine’s Day in February.

KFC Fried Chicken as a Christmas dinner – Turkey or ham are not popular main dishes in Japan; of all things, KFC fried chicken is a preferred viand. Due to its Christmas popularity, orders for KFC fried chicken are placed at least two months in advance!

Disney Japan Torii Gate.

Theme park Christmas – There are several theme parks in Japan that will go all out to get you in that festive holiday mood. Tokyo Disney Resort (Tokyo Disneyland and Tokyo DisneySea) hosts annual the much anticipated “Disney Christmas”.

Disney Japan Torii Gate. | Joe Penniston

Sanrio Puroland, a theme park dedicated to Sanrio characters such as Hello Kitty, My Melody, Gudetama and Pompompurin also have Christmas themed events.