6 Unique Christmas Customs in Japan | Guidable - Your Guide to a Sustainable, Wellbeing-centred Life in Japan

6 Unique Christmas Customs in Japan

By Guidable Writers Dec 24, 2017

Japan has adopted many religious cultures as a part of our culture. Christianity is not an exception. One of the cultural events we also enjoy from the Christian culture is Christmas. However, we have a different way of celebrating Christmas compared to other countries. So I would like to introduce our unique ways to enjoy Christmas in Japan!

1.Order a Christmas cake

If your family does a Christmas party at home, they might order a Christmas cake. For Japanese people, Christmas is one of our many excuses for us to eat cake.

We do not have any specific type of Christmas cake which we eat on Christmas, however most of the time, we order a whole cake decorated with whipped cream. The white cream looks like snow, and creates an atmosphere of white Christmas.

On a top of the cake, you might see red strawberries and Santa Clause made out of marzipan or sugar.  The red colour from the strawberries reminds us of Santa Clause’s clothes. That is why we tend to order cakes with a lot of whipped cream.

This custom of eating a cake with whipped cream and strawberries on Christmas day was made by the founder of Fujiya, which is a famous Japanese cake shop. He brought the idea of this cake from the US, and changed it to the tastes of his Japanese customers.


2.Get  KFC

Japanese people do not usually eat turkey on Christmas day. Instead of a turkey meat, we go to KFC and get some deep fried chicken. It is actually very rare to eat turkey in Japan, because it is simply hard to get here. That is why we eat chicken instead of turkey.

The origin of the culture to have chicken on the Christmas day is from one foreigner who lived in Tokyo. He or she wanted to get a turkey for Christmas, but couldn’t find it in Japan. So that person ended up eating KFC. KFC heard this story, and started to use it as one of their strategies to make sales increase by creating the image that people eat fried chicken on Christmas.


3.No Christmas cards

Japanese people do not have the custom of sending Christmas cards. Some people might follow this custom which exists in western countries, and send Christmas cards to others. However, most people do not pay attention to this custom.

It is assumed that Nengajyo might be the reason why we do not send a card on Christmas. Nengajyo is a message card which Japanese people have as our custom. We send Nengajyo as a greeting for a new year.

That is why we are not used to sending Christmas cards to others.


4.Spending time with their lover

For people who are from western countries, Christmas is usually a time where you spend time with their families. However, for most Japanese people, Christmas is an event for lovers. So people go on dates on Christmas day with their boyfriend or girlfriend. The reason why people spend Christmas with their lovers is unknown, however Omisoka and Oshogatsu are related with this style of celebrating Christmas with partners in Japan.

Omisoka is on the 31st of December. Oshogatsu is on the 1st of January. Japanese people have a custom to spend these days(New Years) with family members. This idea might be similar to one of Christmas for western people. So we have had the same custom which western people do for Christmas in Omisoka and Oshogatsu. As a result, Japanese have decided to spend Christmas with their partner instead of their family.


5.Christmas is not a public holiday

Christmas is not a public holiday in Japan. So it is normal for us to go to school or work on the 24th and 25th of December.

Many white collar workers work until around December 27th or 28th, and they get a holiday for New Years. So some people spend their Christmas doing nothing special. This is quite normal for Japanese people.


6.Shops are open everywhere, and have special sales

As well as Christmas not being a public holiday, almost every shop is open, even on Christmas day!

As mentioned above, while there are a lot of couples going on dates on Christmas day, there are also many people going to the mall or some shops in their city. Because of this, Christmas is a huge day for sales, so many shops have special sales for Christmas. As well as many shops, there are a lot of people who come to cake shops to get a Christmas cake. That is why Christmas day is the most important day for every cake shop to make more profit.

If you have any preferences about the cake you want for Christmas day, it is better to book it in advance.


There are a few unique customs about Japanese Christmas culture. I think they may be very different from your country. If you want to enjoy a Japanese style Christmas, why don’t you try a few of them?