Christmas & New Year in Japan

06 Dec 2017 in Discover Japan

Planning a trip to Japan over the holiday period? Find out what you can expect!


Christmas Japanese-style

With Shinto and Buddhism the country’s two major religions, Christmas has only recently come onto the Japanese radar. But don’t expect it to be like back home!

Couple date table

In Japan, Christmas Eve is billed as a day of romance akin to Valentine’s Day. A candlelit dinner is de rigeur, often followed by a stroll to see the “illuminations” – the lavish lights decorating the streets during the festive period.

Lights in the city of Tokyo Japan

Neon lights phhotography

In Tokyo, areas such as Ginza, a short walk from HOSHINOYA Tokyo, are stunningly lit up.

Your chances of finding a Christmas turkey are slim in Japan, but a trip to Kentucky Fried Chicken is a must!

Welcome to Christmas in Japan. This is actually a big deal. #kfcchristmas

Une publication partagée par Timothy Poulton (@timpoulton) le

Yes, KFC is considered the ultimate Christmas treat thanks to a highly successful advertising campaign in the 1970s that promoted “Kentucky for Christmas”. Just make sure you reserve a good month in advance!

And what about New Year?

Unlike Christmas, New Year (shogatsu) is an age-old tradition, considered the year’s most important holiday.

New Year’s Eve is all about preparing for a fresh start – by cleaning! Families come together to clean the entire house in a ritual known as osoji (“big cleaning”).

On January 1, food is also the order of the day, with special multi-layered bento boxes called jubako offering a wealth of treats, including fish and mochi rice cakes.

Boite a repas bento japonaise

During the New Year period, families often visit a temple or shrine, a custom known as hatsumode.

Sensoji temple of Tokyo

With many temples laying on food stands and selling lucky charms, it’s an experience worth testing.

New Years at Meji Shrine #hatsumode #mejishrine #yoyogi #newyear #temple

Une publication partagée par Arthur Hou (@arthur.hou) le

But be warned that Tokyo’s biggest temples attract well over a million people and queues can be very long!

Photo credits for jubako : City Foodsters / CC BY



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