This article has been edited for 2020.
It’s the most wonderful time of the year! Or usually, it is!
Christmas has already crept up throughout Japan’s cities and shopping malls, and everyone is getting prepared for the most festive season. If you’ve been here a while, you may already know that Christmas is a strange season here in Japan– Feeling familiar and completely foreign all at the same time! Especially this year. Japan has imported a lot of the West’s favorite Christmas traditions, and putting a uniquely Japanese twist on it!
How to Get the Most Out of the Christmas Season
Is it your first Christmas season in Japan? Here’s how to get the most out of the season, and enjoy all the fun festivities that Japan has to offer.
This year will obviously be something quite different to normal Christmasses but that doesn’t mean we can’t enjoy it. Whether you are going to stay home and have a Christmas party with your household, eat delicious food and make Christmas crafts, or go on a socially distance approved outing in your local area, we hope you can enjoy this festive time.
1: Check Before Going to Illuminations
Many illuminations are canceled this year due to COVID-19, so make sure you check before you go. Most of them will now close at 8pm until January 11, 2021.
The Christmas lights (often called illumination) in Japan are certainly amazing! Large shopping malls and city areas light up spectacular displays that draw thousands of visitors each year. There is nothing more festive or gets you more in the spirit than walking down a street lit up by thousands of twinkling lights.
Popular shopping streets light up their streets with beautiful displays, and lights will be everywhere! This year Omotesando illuminations are canceled but Roppongi and Marunouchi shopping districts are still lighting up their streets. Do some shopping, grab a hot coffee, and take a nice stroll through the beautiful displays.
Some stand out popular illumination displays are:
Meguro River Minna no Illumination
This popular illumination will be held online this year. You can even create your own illumination from the instructions on the site and post it to Instagram for that community feeling.
Golden LED light installations are scattered around the Midtown area for a warming glow, and a huge snowglobe lights up the Midtown Garden area, popular with families and children. The illuminations are available until Feb 28 2021.
Shibuya Blue Cave
Featuring over 600,000 blue LED lights, Shibuya Blue Cave is a can’t miss display held in Yoyogi Park from 30 November – 31 December 2018.
Note: Canceled in 2020.
Yomiuri Land Jewellumination
Million’s of jewell-colored lights take over Yomiuri Land in this annual event! The whole park is lit up, in 8 spectacular areas. This is a can’t miss an evening out this winter! Held in Yomiuri Land until Apr 4 2021.
Walk between Tokyo and Nihonbashi Stations for the 170,000 golden LED light extravaganza that awaits.
Or stop at COREDO Muromachi Terrace and surrounding areas for KIBO no Hikari Machi. An event that includes meteor-linked illumination art born from new technology. You can even wish upon a star and send it back to the sky! Open until 14 February 2021.
2: Stay Home and Eat some Fast Food!
Fast food? On Christmas? Yes!
Did you know it’s traditional to eat pizza and fried chicken on Christmas in Japan? Started from a genius marketing campaign in the 1970s by Kentucky Fried Chicken, fast food (especially fried chicken!) has been an important Christmas tradition in Japan ever since.
Fast food chains offer special Christmas sets and party packs all throughout the season. People line up for hours Christmas day for their fried-chicken bucket, and Kentucky Fried Chicken has been known to sell out well in advance but there are other options such as Seven Eleven, or Ito Yokado.
There are plenty of options on delivery services such as Uber Eats or Demae-can for Christmas food. You can make a household party out of it by making Christmas crafts, watching Christmas films or playing Christmas games!
3: Do Some Shopping
Typically, if you aren’t a child you won’t be getting many Christmas presents in Japan. Couples will exchange small presents, but gift-exchanges between friends and family usually come with the New Year.
Even though gift-exchanges aren’t as common as in the West, shopping malls take full advantage of the season! Malls are decorated with beautiful decorations and illumination, and shops put out exclusive Christmas merchandise. Not to mention, sales!
Pick up a few things for your friends and family, and treat yourself to a year-end gift!
4: Go to Disneyland!
Although Christmas Disney is cancelled this year, you can still enjoy a trip! Reservations are required by the new app and entry limitations are in place. Many shops and restaurants also need an online reservation to enter. For more information about Disneyland this season, visit this page.
5: Visit a Christmas Market
Starting in mid-November, Bavarian-style Christmas markets pop up all over Tokyo. Check out the markets and enjoy some traditional holiday decorations, unique gifts, and great food and drink.
Christmas markets are a favorite Christmas tradition for me and my family– I’ve found that they’re one of the only places in Tokyo to have a glass of mulled wine!
Some popular Christmas Markets are:
Roppongi Hills Christmas Market
Held at Roppongi Hills Oyane Plaza every year is Tokyo’s oldest Christmas market! Make a day of it by shopping, checking out the market and viewing Roppongi’s famous illumination. Held until 25 December 2020. Entry limitations are in place and numbered tickets may be distributed during the weekends.
Yokohama Red Brick Warehouse Christmas Market
My personal favorite Christmas market– The Yokohama Red Brick Warehouse Christmas market is a can’t-miss event! The iconic Red Brick Warehouse makes the perfect backdrop to a beautiful Christmas market. Enjoy ice skating, food and drink, and tons of unique crafts and gifts. Held until 25 December 2018. Reservations are required to enter.
Tokyo Christmas Market
The only Christmas market in Japan with the backing of the German embassy and German Tourism Association, the Tokyo Christmas Market can’t be beat! Featuring a huge Christmas pyramid, and a live choir in the evenings, visiting Tokyo Christmas Market is guaranteed to be a great evening out. Held in Hibiya park until 25 December 2020. Entry limitations may be in place.
Get the Most Out of the Christmas Season This Year
Enjoying Christmas this year might mean social distance and staying home more than usual but that doesn’t mean it can’t be enjoyed! What are you planning to do this Christmas? We would love to know.