8 Recommended Spots to Enjoy Christmas in Japan!

8 Recommended Spots to Enjoy Christmas in Japan!

Only around 1% of Japan’s population are Christians, so Christmas is not a holiday in Japan. Consequently, you might think that Christmas in Japan is a very low key affair, but you’d be wrong! In fact, it’s a bonanza for the retail industry, offering glitter and spectacle to equal anything seen on Western high streets.

Yet, as with so many imports to Japan, Christmas has taken on a unique character that may seem at odds with Western traditions, so here are a few ideas for enjoying Christmas in Japan without having to make too many jarring compromises.



 

8 Recommended Spots to Enjoy Christmas in Japan!

 

1. Go To Church!

For the traditionally-minded, there are Churches all over Japan that hold seasonal events and carol services at Christmas, some even in English. In Tokyo, there’s St. Andrew’s Cathedral and St. Alban’s in Minato-ku, and St. Luke’s Chapel in Chuo-ku. In Yokohama there’s St. Andrew’s Cathedral and Christ Church, Yamate. Then there’s St. Agnes’ Cathedral, Kyoto; Christ Church Cathedral, Osaka; St. Matthew’s Cathedral, Nagoya; and Christ Church Cathedral, Sapporo. And that’s just a few of the Anglican churches!

 

2. Christmas At Home

For foreign residents, enjoying Christmas day in Japan with family and friends isn’t easy; people still have to go to work, and kids still have to go to school, so exchanging gifts and having dinner together may have to be put on hold until the evening. My only advice would be to download or stream your entertainment rather than suffer Japanese TV. And make sure your oven, if you have one, is big enough for your turkey!

 

3. Christmas Dinner At Home

Contrary to popular belief, not all Japanese eat KFC at Christmas! Anglophiles and foreign residents alike opt for a home-cooked festive dinner where possible, and for many years, the expensive import food stores have been selling frozen turkeys at Christmas. But local supermarkets these days sell whole chickens, fresh or cooked, at much lower prices, though you may need to pre-order. And to complete your authentic Christmas dinner, even brussels sprouts, or “mekyabetsu” [芽キャベツ] as they’re known in Japanese, are readily available at many supermarkets!

 

4. Going Out For Dinner

If you don’t have an oven, or a kitchen for that matter, you’ll have to go out for Christmas dinner. Fortunately, most Western style restaurants and hotels serve some kind of seasonal menu; it might not be 100% authentic, but it won’t be far off! Then again, there are a lot of authentic English style pubs in Japan that serve food, including Christmas dinner. My favourite is HUB, which has 46 branches all over Tokyo, as well as many others in Osaka, Kyoto, Nagoya and other parts of Kanto and Kansai.

 

5. Winter Illuminations

Christmas isn’t just about eating, drinking and making merry; it’s also about creating a magical and romantic atmosphere for kids and the young-at-heart, something the Japanese are very good at. Though not necessarily Christmas themed, Japan’s famous winter illuminations offer a spectacular feast for the senses. Notable illuminations include: Tokyo’s Caretta Shiodome, and Midtown Christmas lights; Kobe’s Luminaire; Osaka’s Hikari Renaissance and Midosuji illuminations; Sendai’s Pageant of Starlight; and the amazing Ashikaga Flower Fantasy in Tochigi.

 

6. Disneyland Christmas Atmosphere

Scheduled illuminations aside, Christmas in Japan is one big light show, so wherever you go there’ll be something marvelous to see. For visitors to Tokyo, Disneyland’s sparkling seasonal decorations, parades and Christmas Fantasy Show will delight children of all ages. The best time to visit is early to mid-December when it’s less busy, but beware: this year (2016) the 23rd to 25th is a long weekend holiday, so it will be very crowded!

 

7. Christmas Shopping

Even Ebenezer Scrooge couldn’t fail to enjoy shopping for Christmas gifts in Japan! Not only are all the shops, malls and department stores open over Christmas, but they’ll be glittering with festive spirit, Christmas trees and more than a few Santas to enthrall the kids. In Tokyo, there are wonderful Christmas Markets at the Skytree Solamachi complex, Roppongi Hills and Midtown Mall. Or why not enjoy the host of attractions, shops and eateries at Tokyo Bay’s Odaiba island? See the decorated tree in Odaiba Kaihin park and the spectacular illuminations of Rainbow Bridge. The ever chic and popular Chuo Dori in Ginza is also beautifully illuminated at Christmas.

 

8. Christmas Eve Romance

For younger Japanese, Christmas Eve has acquired a status akin to St. Valentine’s day. If you’re dating a Japanese girl, she’ll expect to be taken somewhere special, like Christmas dinner at a trendy restaurant, or maybe a romantic river cruise. But wherever you decide to take her, plan well ahead; the better restaurants, shows, special events and resort hotels will be booked solid for Christmas Eve!

 

Conclusion

When you think about it, Christmas in Japan isn’t really all that different to Christmas anywhere else; kids get presents, adults over-indulge and, if only for a day or two, we can all forget our worries. Yes, it’s a bit more commercial than a Western Christmas, but no less magical.

 

8 Recommended Spots to Enjoy Christmas in Japan!

1. Go To Church!
2. Christmas At Home
3. Christmas Dinner At Home
4. Going Out For Dinner
5. Winter Illuminations
6. Disneyland Christmas Atmosphere
7. Christmas Shopping
8. Christmas Eve Romance