Japan does Christmas
Christmas in Japan is the day of couple romance and strawberry cakes. Bright, sweet and colourful.
Tokyo hardly ever gets snow but streets are covered with white and blue LED lights, producing perfect winter landscapes.
Winter is also strawberry season in Japan which is why on Christmas day couples and families share strawberry cake with a lot of whipped cream and soft sponge cake.
Tokyo is fun and delicious during Christmas. Have a tasting with me!
Couples have a romantic dinner on Christmas Eve. For people on a budget, conbinis (Japanese convenience stores) provide fantastic catering on Christmas. Your order will be brought to you to the door on the day. Apart from strawberry cake, chicken is part of the main meal. Apparently fast food chain KFC has popularized the tradition to eat chicken for Christmas.
But most Japanese people stick to the “hara hachi bunme” Confucian rule which advises to eat only as much as to be 80% full. In Japan it seems even Santa stays slim and fit.
The percentage of Christians in Japan is rather low, so that Christmas day is not a national holiday, however Christmas commerce and city decorations are full on.
Shibuya shopping area.
I can’t name a shopping mall or popular place that does not feature a shiny sparkling Christmas tree. There are even adverts that tell you where to find the brightest Christmas illuminations.
Christmas tree delivery – new Christmas decorations pop up in no time.
I have adjusted to local customs and have been taking photographic evidence of the festive trees before moving on, to the next wonderfully decorated Christmas tree.
Posing in front of Shibuya 109 Men’s department store with my Japanese friend Junko.
Christmas tree pic in Tokyo’s Harajuku on our super kawaii day.
We also hunted down the big Christmas tree and illuminated tree avenue in Akihabara – the geeky electronics area.
Misako, Mai, me and mega tree.
Akihabara tree avenue with Takaki, Mai, Misako and Alex – our besties in Tokyo.
Akihabara provides Christmas treats to warm otaku hearts.
Japan loves cosplay. Also on Christmas.
At night, Tokyo transforms into a forest of illuminated trees, malls and shopping areas.
Traditional images meet LED at Shinjuku.
Christmas worlds on top of buildings. This is Tokyu Plaza terrace in fashion district Harajuku.
Listen to some Christmas tunes and enjoy the decoration.
Tamagawa Takashiyama Department Store. A nice place to see Japanese Christmas decor, also a good spot to have dinner and do shopping. Many locals choose the elegant Tamagawa district as an option to Shinjuku or Shibuya.
Blinded by the lights.
Christmas customs are as colourful as in other countries. Okay, maybe more bright. Japan doesn’t seem to worry about its electricity bill. This is Kyodo Station, close to our house in Tokyo.
There are escalators going up to the terrace which has been brightly decorated. Kyodo Station, like Japanese stations in general are the pulse of life in Japan with shopping and dining opportunities serving all budgets.
Couples enjoy the dim-lit atmosphere.
Osaka’s Floating Garden had an illuminated heart to provide a memorable photo souvenir for couples. And to celebrate a ‘Heartful Christmas’.
In Osaka, we also saw a German Weihnachtsmarkt which was very much like the typical Christmas markets in Germany. With German food, Glühwein and local gifts, it was like strolling through a market in my hometown Cologne.
On our regular bike trips through Tokyo, we spotted some outstanding Christmas decorations on private homes. Nothing short of those jaw-dropping American winter themed houses.
The ship and the blue and white colours actually made us wonder if someone is celebrating a Greek Christmas.
One of many Christmas illuminations we saw. They are free and many people come to enjoy the light shows. Japan is a one big amusement park for adults. No matter what season.
Midtown Mall complex featured “Santa Street” with many photo opportunities featuring big Santa figures. Each figure had descriptions on how to pose.
There were also French themed Christmas market stands.
Santa brings the obligatory strawberry cake.
Strawberries are a must at Christmas and can be luxury goods in Japan. With prices from accessible 250 yen for a 300g bag (at our Kyodo veggie shop) to 6 USD per strawberry, where each red fruit is wrapped like precious stones in small boxes.
I have to say though that strawberries are delicious in Japan. They are juicy, sweet and nothing like the big and flavourless giant wintertime strawberries from European supermarkets.
The latest food trend is the white strawberry, referred to as hatsukoi no kaori (which means scent of first love). The white strawberry is a rare delicacy and sight, with red seeds and white flesh, concocted by a Japanese agricultural company.
The custom to send a card to friends and relatives keeps Japanese post offices busy around Christmas, and especially during New Year. Post offices guarantee to deliver wishes on time, which is why post offices hire students to help deliver the cards. I took a picture of some cute Totoro themed New Year’s cards.
Japanese Christmas card. Snowman is shopping for strawberry cake.
The Merry Christmas couple love card.
And of course, the Hello Kitty Christmas card.
While Christmas is more of an integrated commercial event from the western world, New Year is a traditional celebration in Japan, spend with the whole family. Families are visiting local shrines to wish for a good new year. On New Year’s Day, Japanese people also have osechi, an elaborate and expensive New Year bento box. I took a picture of osechi from the Lawson and Seven Eleven conbini brochures which I brought back from Japan.
These are typical New Year’s decorations, featuring the Chinese zodiac figure of the coming year. The zodiac signs are animals which rotate in a cycle of twelve years. Each year is represented by an animal. 2013 was the year of the snake, 2014 is the year of the horse.
I hope you enjoyed a bit of Japanese traditions.
My Polish Christmas looked sorta like this, except this time, Tomek was wearing the Santa costume for the kids.
New Years is party time in Poland but this year we decided to stay with the family and only to go out to watch Szczecin’s fireworks at midnight. I do not have any New Year’s resolutions because I believe that everyone has the ability to start fresh any day of the year.
Anyway, have fun, smile lots, eat less, and be safe.
I wish you a wonderful holiday, however and whatever you celebrate!
I will finish this post with a gorgeous Japanese card from my friend Mai. Have a joyous New Year 2014!