fbpx

Ultimate Guide to Japanese Christmas

By Norie Matsumoto | November 30, 2021

Christmas is celebrated in different ways in many countries, but Japanese Christmas might be a little different than what you are used to in your home country. In your mind, you may associate Christmas on the 25th of December but Japanese people actually celebrate a day before, on the 24th, when most consider Christmas Eve. There are more quirks to Christmas celebrations in Japan from the food they eat, what events you can go to, shopping, and Japanese versions of your favorite childhood Christmas songs.

This article is a part of our extensive series of guides on living in Japan.

2 Ebooks to Jump Start your Japanese

Subscribe to our newsletter to get bi-weekly study tips, advice and stories on how YOU can improve your Japanese.

10 Ways to kickstart your japanese studies
mobile-Free-Japanese-Study-Apps
Table of Contents
    Add a header to begin generating the table of contents
    Japanese Christmas palm trees daytime holiday

    What is Japanese Christmas like?

    Traditions

    The first and most glaring difference in Japanese Christmas is that it is considered a holiday celebrated as a couple more so than as a family. 

    Though Christmas is associated with Christianity and the prominent religion in Japan is Buddhism, less than 1% of the population is actually Christian. Christmas is not celebrated as a religious holiday by a majority of people in the country. Rather, Christmas in Japan is a time for romance. Couples often have elegant date nights to celebrate Christmas with one another. If you want to reserve a table at your favorite restaurant, it is best to do it as soon as possible because it will get booked up quickly.

    holiday christmas xmas winter santa

    Foods for Japanese Christmas

    Unlike many of its Western counterparts, in Japan, there are many stores and restaurants that are open on Christmas day and the days around it, so don’t worry about forgetting an ingredient or not having anything to eat.

    KFC Japanese Christmas

    Something you`ll quickly come to associate with celebrating Japanese Christmas is Kentucky Fried Chicken is the go-to meal to have on this special day. Strange, right? This has come to be due to the genius marketing campaigns of KFC in the 1970s. Turkeys and large hams aren’t as popular or easily accessible in Japan as in places like America, Japanese people prefer chicken and it definitely saves time not having all the prep time for turkeys! Their Christmas menu consists of a party barrel, which is usually shared by families. Additionally, they have cakes and everything comes in festive Christmas packaging too. 

    If you’re lucky, you might even meet a scarily accurate replica of a Colonel Sanders mannequin dressed as Santa Claus at the storefront.  

    Japanese Christmas ad conbini cake reservation japan

    Christmas cake 

    In Japan, the perfect pairing with a bucket of fried chicken is a Christmas cake. You can find many stores including convenience stores accepting pre-orders for the sweet treat on that day. The most common cake type is red and white like the Japanese flag. It’s a sponge cake, enveloped in white whipped cream and topped with strawberries. They usually come with adorable little Santas or reindeers that are edible. 

    Cake became a staple due in part to the American occupation after World War 2 when Japanese people saw the troops handing out sweets which were then seen as the ultimate luxury and a sign of wealth. My late grandfather told me that kids used to chase after U.S. soldiers’ vehicles saying one of the few phrases in English they knew, which was “Give me chocolate.” 

    These are the places you can pre-order a delicious and decadent whole cake, make sure to get it before they sell out. Normal whole cakes can range anywhere from 1500yen-4000 yen, typically even more for luxury ones.

    • Ginza Cozy Corner: One of the most affordable options. They have a large selection of cakes that can please couples or families with young kids. 
    • Supermarkets and Conbinis: Check your local convenience stores or supermarkets as they may have flyers hanging up advertising cake orders they can fill like Mybasket or Seven-Eleven.
    • Park Hyatt Tokyo: A more grandeur option, they have extremely intricate and detailed cakes, even a gingerbread house that will definitely wow a crowd. 
    • Hilton Tokyo: A unique option with gorgeous decorations that is ideal for a mature party.

    Convenience store options

    Believe it or not, your local convenience store just got more convenient. If you’re in a pinch during this holiday, you can run to your nearest 7/11 or Lawsons to get your fix of good food along with a cake. Of course, you most likely wouldn’t be able to find a full course meal for the whole family here, it can be good for small treats. コンビニ・ Conibinis (abbreviation for convenience store) have cute holiday-themed sweets like cakes and puddings in shapes of Santa or Xmas 和菓子・wagashi (traditional Japanese confections). Some people even have crispy chicken like FamiChiki or Nanachiki as a replacement for KFC.

    Family Restaurant options

    If you`re a university student or looking a budget-friendly dinner on Xmas, ファミレス,

    Or a family restaurant is a good choice. You can have a hearty meal at places like:

    • Saizeriya
    • Coco’s
    • Jonathan’s
    • Denny’s
    • Gusto
    • Royal Host
    • Bikkuri Donkey
    • Big Boy

    Most of these places do not have a Christmas exclusive menu but have some seasonal options that can be a good option. Conbini might sell a box of fried chicken, for example.

    Buffets can also be a great choice for families if you don’t have time to cook but still want to be able to stuff yourselves. 

    Casual Course (5,800 yen), Upgrade Course (7,800 yen), and Premium Course 

    (9,000 yen). 

    Get familiar with a delicious Japanese winter classic,  Guide to Japanese Nabe.

    Japanese-group-lessons-in-Shinjuku-600x400-1
    Group Lesson Student

    Affordable Online and Offline Morning Lessons in Tokyo

    Learn Japanese with us online or offline and make your Japan Switch.

    JapanSwitch Logo - LINEAR - 800 x 287
    • Affordable Japanese Lessons
    • Monthly Contracts
    • No Entrance Fees
    • No Hidden Fees
    • 200+ Students
    • Online or Offline Lessons
    Dining table with festive decor during winter

    Where to find an American or British style Christmas dinner 

    Missing home? If you`re not able to go home to your country to eat a home-cooked meal, you might want something familiar when you're in a foreign country. There are some American and British style options for your dinner. Also, if you're still dying to get your hands on a turkey and not feeling satisfied with just chicken, there are a select few stores where you can get one. But make sure you have a capable oven.

    Nissin World Delicatessen

    Of course, if you want international food, you’ve got to go to an international market. Not only can you find American and British foods, but there are also foods from all over the world to add to your Christmas dinner! 

    National Azabu Supermarket

    Much like Nissin World Delicatessen, National Azabu carries lots of international options and furthermore, you can order a turkey in advance on their website or just go in stores. Make your own stuffing and enjoy your turkey at home. 

    Costco

    If you’ve been to Costco in your home country, when you go to the one in Japan, it’ll feel like you’re not even in Japan because the layout is left the same. Some products you may recognize and others may be exclusive to Japan. But you can definitely prepare a feast with their portion sizes.

    Japanese Christmas

    Shopping for Christmas goods and decorations 

    If you enjoy decorating your home for festivities, you can buy some Christmas decorations to feel the holiday cheer. 

    Where can I buy Christmas decorations?

    • Franc Franc: A stylish and trendy store, they sell pretty ornaments and other decorations. 
    • Ikea: Though Ikea is most notably known for their affordable furniture and Swedish food court, they actually also have a variety of ornaments and decorations. 
    • Flying Tiger: This fun store that carries an assortment of knick-knacks has low-priced options for decorating your home and wrapping presents. It’s easy to get carried away and spend a long time here, also carrying out more than you need. 
    • Daiso: A fantastic budget option if you're worried about getting something for one time a year, Daiso has its unbeatable price of 100 yen items including holiday decorations. 
    • Don Quijote: This famous and well-loved company has lots of twinkle lights, different costumes (Santa), and gifts. You can find inexpensive unique items for this season.

     

    pine tree decorations ornaments snow

    Japanese phrases to know for Christmas

    Try using these phrases for Christmas:

    Japanese

    Romaji

    English

    メリークリスマス

    Merī kurisumasu

    Merry Christmas

    12月25日

    Jyuu ni gatsu ni jyuu go nichi 

    December 25th

    クリスマス・イヴ

    kurisumasu ibu

    Christmas Eve

    クリスマスを過ごす

    Kurisumasu o sugosu 

    To spend Christmas (doing)

    プレゼント

    purezento

    Present

    雪だるま

    yukidaruma

    Snowman

    イエス・キリスト

    Iesu Kirisuto

    Jesus Christ

    飾り

    kazari

    Decoration(s)

    fuyu

    Winter

    寒い

    samui

    Cold

    トナカイ

    tonakai

    Reindeer

    サンタクロース

    Santa Kuroosu 

    Santa Claus 

    良い冬休みを!

    Yoi fuyu yasumi o!

    Have a nice winter vacation!

    休暇を楽しんでね!

    Kyūka o tanoshinde ne!

    Enjoy the holidays!

    イルミネーション見に行かない?

    Iruminēshon mi ni ikanai?

    Would you like to go see the illuminations?

    クリスマスツリー

    Kurisumasu tsurī

    Christmas tree

    天使 

    Tenshi

    Angel

    エルフ

    Erufu

    Elf

    クリスマスのごちそう

    Kurisumasu no gochisō

    Christmas feast

    オーナメント

    Ōnamento

    Ornament

    Want to know more phrases to use this Christmas? Read our article, Useful Japanese Phrases

    Learn Japanese for Free

    Our newsletter for beginner to low intermediate Japanese students will get you on the right track to learning Japanese and saving money.

    Japanese Speaking
    Japanese Christmas pine trees japan mt fuji

    Our favorite ways to enjoy Japanese Christmas

    Winter Illuminations

    Going to see winter illuminations during this festive season is one of the most popular activities to do. Whether it's for a romantic stroll under twinkling lights with your significant other or a fun time with your family or friends, there are so many different locations to visit this December. 2021-2022.

    Tokyo

    Roppongi hills

    • November 19 to December 25, 2021
    • 17:00 to 23:00

    Tokyo Midtown

    • November 18 to December 25
    • 17:00 to 23:00

    Marunouchi

    • November to February 
    • 15:00 to 23:00 (until midnight in December)

    Tokyo Dome City Winter Illumination

    • November to February
    • 17:00 to 24:00

    Omotesando

    • December 1 to January
    • Sunset to 22:00

    Odaiba

    • Decks Odaiba:
    • Around the year
    • Sunset to 24:00

    Osaka

    Midosuji Illumination

    • November 3 to December 31
    • 17:00 to 23:00
    • Admission: Free

    Osaka Hikari Renaissance

    • December 14 to 25, 2021; 17:00 to 22:00
    • Admission: Free

    Kanagawa

    Sagamiko Illumillion

    • Early November to April 
    • Sunset to 21:00 (until 20:30 or 21:30 on some days)

    Sendai

    Sendai Pageant of Starlight

    • December 18 to 31
    • 19:00 to 22:00 (from 18:00 on weekends)

    Tochigi

    Ashikaga Flower Fantasy

    • October 16 to February 14
    • closed on December 31
    • 16:30 to 20:30 (weekends and holidays until 21:00)
    • Admission: 1100 yen

    Nagoya

    Nabana no Sato Winter Illumination

    • October 23 to May 31
    • 10:00 to 21:00 (until 22:00 on selected busy days)
    • Admission: 2300 yen

    Nagasaki

    Kingdom of Light

    • Seasonal Christmas illumination from November 6 to December 26
    • Admission: 4000 yen (entry after 5pm), 7000 yen (full day passport)

    Want to know the other locations having winter illuminations? Winter Illuminations

    japan tokyo kyoto osaka xmas santa

    Christmas Markets 

    Roppongi Hills Christmas Market

    • The oldest Christmas market in Tokyo is in Roppongi Hills’s Oyane Plaza. This market is meant to recreate the one in Stuttgart, Germany which is known as the largest Christmas market in the world. At the market, traditional German Christmas food, beverages, and over 1,500 Christmas crafts are sold. Along with the merry Christmas ambiance, enjoy the romantic illuminations at Roppongi Hills held at the same period, including huge Christmas trees and the famous Keyakizaka Street illumination.
    • Dates: 27 November to 25 December 2021

    Tokyo Christmas Market

    • In Hibiya Park. Opened in 2015, this is an outdoor European-style Christmas market. It’s the largest Christmas market in Tokyo displaying small huts selling traditional Christmas food, drinks, ornaments, and special live events. 
    • Date: 10 to 25 December 2021

    Hours: 11:00~22:00

    Yebisu Garden Place Christmas Marché

    • Yebisu features the world’s biggest Baccarat chandelier, a huge 10m tall Christmas tree, and more than 100,000 LED lights. During the holiday season, a French-style Christmas Market “Christmas Marché” is held at the place with different snacks and drinks.
    • Hours: 12:00~20:00

    Tokyo Skytree Town Dream Christmas

    • This event showcases illuminations with over 500,000 lights, a beautiful Christmas tree, a lighting effect of Tokyo Skytree, and a Christmas Market. This market has hot food, desserts, and drinks.
    • Early November to late December

    Yokohama Red Brick Warehouse Christmas Market

    • The second-largest city in Japan, located next to Tokyo, Yokohama is easily accessible from the heart of Tokyo. This large outdoor Christmas Market is located at the iconic Yokohama Red Brick Warehouse. It has delicious German food, drinks, crafts, a huge Christmas Tree, and beautiful illuminations. There is also a large ice skate rink right next to the market.
    • Dates: 26 November to 25 December 2021

    Hours: 11:00~21:00

    There are even more Christmas markets that you can attend, Best Christmas Markets in Tokyo.

    Japanese Christmas presents wrapping decor gifts holiday

    Take Online Lessons at Japan Switch

    Christmas Shopping

    Businesses see a huge increase in sales around Christmas time when everyone goes out to get gifts. Many stores have deals to entice shoppers. 

    For the Bourgeois Shoppers: 

    Ginza: Ginza is considered by many as an affluent area, having high-end stores on every corner. The streets are packed with Western and European brands like Chanel, Gucci, Louis Vuitton. Shopping is extremely popular here, so much so that the main street is shut down every weekend from 12 pm to 5 pm just for pedestrians. Expect to see nice decorations and elegant lights. 

    One-stop shopping (for that last-minute rush):

    On a time crunch? Get a gift for everyone on your list at these big stores that have something for everyone.

    Tokyu Hands

    Lots of floors of various items with everything you could possibly need. They have a fun novelty floor, stationery, household goods, and more!

    Loft

    Sells everyday commodities and is similar to Tokyu Hands. You can pick up a lot of cute stationery here!

    Muji

    Simple and good quality items. Mainly focused on clothes and household items. Don’t miss out on the delicious snacks and ready-made meals!

    Department Stores

    • Isetan (The most popular one in Shinjuku has 10 floors!)
    internet shopping online buying amazon rakuten

    If you’re too busy to go to the stores

    Make sure to order with plenty of time left till the big day so you aren’t left scrambling. Also, be prepared to pay a premium fee for certain items if you want gifts delivered directly to the recipient on the day of as the delivery drivers can get super busy! These sites have every kind of gift you could need.

    アマゾン・Amazon:

    By far the quickest delivery option, especially if you have a prime member account. There are gift guides and categories on the site as well. 

    Site in Japanese, English, or Chinese.

    楽天市場・Rakuten Ichiba:

    This site is more fashion-heavy than Amazon. They also have a Rakuten point club. 

    If you’re a go-getter and you’ve already done the above, find more things to do with our guide to Activities in Japan in Winter

    Japanese Christmas skiing lift white christmas hokkaido cold

    Best places to visit during Japanese Christmas time

    Hokkaido

    Wintertime = Hokkaido. In December, it gets extremely cold, even when the sun is out. The average temperature is -1°C/30°F and it can be anywhere from -4°C/24°F to 2°C/35°F. If you're hoping for a White Christmas, your best bet is to go visit Hokkaido. It’ll most likely be snowing in the northernmost part of the country so you can make as many snowmen and throw as many snowballs as your heart desires. If you tire of that, here are some popular things to do:

    1. Sapporo White Illumination・さっぽろホワイトイルミネーション

    Location: Sapporo

    Held November to March

    2. Ski Resorts

    Hit the slopes and start skiing better than Santa can sled!

    • Furano Ski Resort
    • Niseko Annupri International Ski Area
    • Hakodate Nanae Snow Park
    • Sapporo Kokusai Ski Resort
    • Otaru Tenguyama Ski Resort

    There are many other places to ski and information to find out about skiing, see our article for more Guide to Skiing in Japan.

    3. Ice Village of Hoshino Resorts

    Such a cool and unique experience, you can have drinks at a bar made of ice and even stay at an ice hotel.

    Location: Tomamu

    Held December to March

    4. Onsen

    When you're in the biting cold, a nice hot onsen sounds like the best idea.

    • Noboribetsu Onsen
    • Jozankei Onsen
    • Yunokawa Onsen

    Tokyo Disneyland and Sea

    A fun place to visit during Christmas time

    popular Christmas date-night spot

    Their Christmas events run from November until December 25th. 

    They have Christmas-themed parades where you can see many of the loveable Disney characters in person. 

    Universal Studios Japan

    Universal Wonder Christmas runs from November to January.

    They’ll have a beautiful, giant Christmas tree in Gramercy Park and there will be fun shows around it. Characters and staff members will be dressed in holiday gear. There are going to be seasonally limited drinks and food that you taste test.

    If you’re a fan of amusement parks, see our article that provides everything you need to know about them, Guide to Amusement Parks in Tokyo.

    Japanese With Friends Podcast Cover

    Know anyone who has passed N1?
    Want to escape the teaching trap?

    OUR HOSTS

    Japan Switch - Tyson

    Tyson Batino

    Tyson is the director and a co-founder of Japan Switch and One Coin English. He has spent 15 years in Japan and achieved N1 in just 3.5 years. Listen in as he shares his tips to becoming successful.

    Colten Japan switch podcast host

    Colten Nahrebesk

    Colten is the owner of Risu Press. He spent 6 years working in various industries in Japan and achieved N2. Tune in to hear more about his experiences and advice for living in Japan.

    shopping gifts bags japan tokyo shop

    Japanese Christmas songs

    Listen to these Japanese versions of famous songs you're familiar with to feel some Christmas spirit! Sing along!

    Jingle Bells (in Japanese)

    Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer (in Japanese)

    Listening to songs in Japanese is a good way to learn the language, see our article on ways to improve your listening, Top 15 Japanese Listening Tips.

    How's the weather during Japanese Christmas?

    Though December is considered the beginning of winter, Japan is the coldest in January and February. Below are the estimated temperatures of major locations. Regardless, you definitely need a good coat to get around, but layer, layer, layer because indoor buildings tend to blast their heaters. 

    Tokyo, Osaka, Kyoto: usually averages 5°C/41°F  to 12°C/54°F during December. 

    Hokkaido is much colder, with Sapporo experiencing highs of 2°C/36°F and lows of -4°C/25°F.

    Okinawa: If the idea of freezing isn’t a pleasant idea to you, the southern regions, like Okinawa, are still warm around this time. Naha averages 16°C/61°F to 20°C/70°F.

    Japanese Christmas sweater snow winter xmas hot drink cocoa

    How to stay warm during a Japanese Christmas

    If you’re not the cold or you just want to keep warm and cozy this Christmas, here are what you should have to comfortable, depending on if you’re in the southern or northern region what you will need will vary:

    • カイロ・Kairo (disposable heating pads)

    A fantastic Japanese invention is available every winter and can be found at any convenience store for cheap. You can either hold them in your pocket or stick them to your back.

    • ヒートテック・Heat tech

    Invented by popular Japanese brand, Uniqlo, this line of clothes generates and retains heat, fights bacteria for odor prevention, wards off static electricity.

    • Down jacket or a coat
    • Touchscreen Gloves
    • Muffler/Scarf
    • Boots
    • Thick socks
    • Beanie/hat
    • Earmuffs
    yellow lights xmas tree photo camera

    Conclusion

    Do you think you`re ready for Christmas in Japan? How will you decide to celebrate this occasion? Hopefully, this guide has helped you get an idea of what you want to do to celebrate this year. If you're still navigating the Japanese language, Japan Switch offers helpful and affordable Japanese lessons that can set you on the right path to mastering the language. 

    Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!

    Archer

    From Beginner to Pro

    Our bi-weekly emails for beginners to low intermediate students will give you the tips and motivation to self-study Japanese your way to Japanese fluency.

    Scroll to Top