If you are in Japan throughout November or December, it will become obvious to you that Christmas is definitely celebrated here. Department stores and shopping arcades are lined with decorations, parks are lit up with lights, and Christmas carols seem to be playing everywhere. Christmas in Japan, however, is not quite the same as Christmas at home. The differences can sometimes be hard to handle, whether it be unusual food choices or unfamiliar traditions. Despite the jarring feelings that this can bring, there are definitely things to appreciate and even love about Christmas in Japan. Here are four of them!
The tradition of giving huge numbers of presents at Christmastime is not as strong in Japan as in other countries. However, if you want or need to give gifts, Japan definitely has you covered in the wrapping department. Nearly all gift stores and department stores offer to wrap presents for you at Christmastime and you can walk away with your gift in a meticulously wrapped gift box or a beautiful gift bag, complete with ribbons and ties. Even better, this is often free of charge or at a very small fee! Check out the big department stores such as Takashimaya and Seibu, or gift shops such as Loft and Plaza for some examples.
Christmas Day is not a public holiday in Japan and so business carries on as usual on December 25th. If you are working at a school in Japan and looking to celebrate the occasion, this can undeniably be disheartening. There is an upside, though, if you are looking to avoid the stress of managing Christmas at home – you don’t have to! All the shops and entertainment venues are still open and, importantly, if you want to enjoy a great meal without preparing it yourself, there are plenty of restaurants to choose from.
Japanese-style Christmas cakes are both beautiful to look at and delicious! Unlike the rich Christmas fruit cakes found in other countries, Japanese Christmas cakes are essentially shortcakes decorated with cream and strawberries. You can find the necessary ingredients to try preparing one yourself at most supermarkets, but there are many ready-made cakes available for purchase as well. Cake stores, such as Cozy Corner and Fujiya, offer up a number of various mouth-watering Christmas cakes at this time of year, and supermarkets, convenience stores and even restaurants such as Denny’s have Christmas cakes available to order in advance.
Without a doubt, the Christmas lights or “illumination” on display throughout Japan at Christmastime are a huge highlight of the festive season here. Streets, shopping arcades and public parks are all decked out in stunning displays of colorful, twinkling Christmas lights. There are particularly famous places to see them, such as Tokyo Sky Tree, Caretta Shiodome and Kobe Luminarie, but you can find beautiful displays in just about any city at this time of year. Check out the main streets, department stores, and urban parks for displays in your area!
It is true that Japan does Christmas differently from other countries, but there is still plenty to enjoy about the festive season if you find yourself here for it. Whether it be delicious food or beautiful displays, take the opportunity to enjoy the particular Japanese way of celebrating Christmas!