Merry Christmas in Japan!

I celebrated my first Christmas in Japan one year ago, and it was obvious right from November 1—the official start of the Christmas decorating season—that things were going to be different from the American version. For one thing, there is almost no mention of Baby Jesus in Japan. Now that I think about it, that’s more and more the case in America, so I won’t dwell too much on that difference.

Despite Japan in general omitting the official “Reason for the Season,” the Christmas music played in Japanese shops and department stores is much more traditional and even outright Christian compared to what one typically hears these days back in the States. As I write this from a small table at my local Doutor coffee shop, it would not surprise me to see a preacher suddenly announce an altar call, what with the theme of the piped-in music.

Japan has Christmas decorations, too! The halls of every shopping mall are decked with boughs of holly, pine wreaths, strings of LED lights, and tree ornaments galore. I see Santa Claus in all his glory adoring store windows, encouraging you to buy now before the latest “Time Sale” ends. I have even had a shopkeeper or two wish me a merii kurisumasu.

Still, we never eat Kentucky Fried Chicken or strawberry cake for Christmas in the US, as is standard practice here in Japan. We dilly-dallied on ordering our “Christmas Cake” last year and wound up grabbing a last-minute “Six-slice Christmas Assortment” (6つのクリスマスアソート) from Cozy Corner, a dessert store chain.

Six-slice Christmas Assortment Cake

Christmas is not an official holiday here, and if you live in Japan, chances are you will be working a standard day. In this and in so many other ways, Christmas in Japan is very different from what I am used to. I miss the chance to watch “A Charlie Brown Christmas,” and hear Linus announce its true meaning: “For unto you is born this day in the City of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord.” Fortunately, that is a part of Christmas that remains no matter what country you are in on December 25. Merry Christmas to all!

[Image Credits: acworks/]

Tim Odagiri

Tim Odagiri is an author, software developer, and the host of Japan Everyday. He has published more than a dozen books and hundreds of articles covering technology, current events, and now life in Japan. Find his latest books at


  • Tim, this is late, but Merry Christmas to you! Christmas is very different in Japan, as you mentioned. One thing that I will always associate with Japanese Christmas is Wham! singing “Last Christmas.” I’m pretty sure I had never heard that song until I was in Osaka in my 20’s! Have a great New Year’s break! 🙂

    • The song “Last Christmas” is still popular here. But I remember back in the US, Mariah Carey’s “All I Want For Christmas Is You” was heard in every store, every day, all day long. Fortunately, they don’t do that here. Have a great New Year!

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