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Christmas in Japan.....? 2008/12/2 23:24
How is Christmas celebrated in Japan? I live there 17 years ago and at that time, Christmas was not really a big deal, other than a few American Christmas decortation in the stores and a Christmas cake. I have been asked to do a Japanese Christmas table for our church's Christmas around the world open house and would love to hear about all the ways Christmas is celebrated in Japan today.
by Cindy  

... 2008/12/3 10:27
Christmas is more of a couples holiday, so couples may go out, have a nice dinner, etc.

Families will get a Kentucky Fried Chicken and a christmas cake. Some families exchange gifts.

Of course not everyone does these things but they are some of the christmas traditions.
by yllwsmrf rate this post as useful

... 2008/12/3 10:30
by yllwsmrf rate this post as useful

Christmas in Japan 2008/12/3 10:30

Easy! Barrels of KFC and plates of strawberry shortcake. Oh, and don't forget to get those decorations down before 25th December!
by Dave in Saitama rate this post as useful

The Christian's Christmas in Japan 2008/12/3 16:50

If it were for school, I would answer just as the others did encouraging you to display something about New Years, and would just add that today Japan displays more Christmas illumination than it used to 17 years ago, thanks to the Japanese invention of blue LED. But since it's for church, I'm going to give you a different answer.

Christmas in Christian churches in Japan is quite different to what's going on at hotels and restaurants in Japan. It is very religious and humble, and more focused on mutual understanding of the society.

I am not baptised but I like to go to the midnight Christmas service whenever I can. At all the churches I've been to, which are usually Anglican or Catholic, Japanese Christians come dressed in jeans and sweaters: What matters is not what they wear, but how they pray. When I was younger, I would run to church after partying with my friends, and I'd be the only one there who's drunk:)

At a Catholic church I went to a couple of times, at the middle of the Christmas service, those who've gathered are encouraged to bow to the people standing on both sides of your seat, which in my case were always total strangers. As you may know, bowing is the most typical way to greet Japanese people, so I guess it's like shaking hands or hugging someone if it were in a church in say America.

This Catholic church is quite a big one, and after the service, you were free to have some hot soup outside. I recall the soup was ton-jiru or something as Japanese as that. Very typical for any winter event in Japan, except for the commercial Christmas festivals. This is the church's website;

On Christmas Eve, NHK TV news always broadcasts a short footage of a church in Nagasaki, because Nagasaki has the longest history of Christianity in Japan. Here again, people would be dressed in simple clothes but would wear lace on their heads as they are conservative Catholics. This is Nagasaki City's official website;

Hope it helps.
by Uco rate this post as useful

Christmas Craziness 2008/12/4 22:44
Christmas is considered to me the most romantic day of the year. Restaurants and cute tourist sites will be filled to the brim with young couples holding hands and taking in the sites.

Whatever you do... don't go to Disneyland. It's PACKED with high school and university aged couples.

I would suggest going out so see the illuminations on the 24th and spend x-mas day eating fried chicken and eating expensive cake. FYI, if you want KFC, all orders for x-mas must be taken in advance (or at lest in my neighborhood).
by Jody in Japan rate this post as useful

.... 2008/12/5 05:14
I was given the "honor" of bringing in the Christmas cake for those of us "lucky" ones who had to work that day. It cost $95 USD for a small cake! I won't do that again.
by Beto rate this post as useful

food 2008/12/5 15:39
The original poster IS NOT GOING TO JAPAN FOR XMAS!! she only want to display in her church in her home country (USA?) Japanese food TYPICALLY eaten at Christmas time in Japan.
by Sensei 2 rate this post as useful

Not a Japanese tradition 2008/12/5 19:05
Christmas in Japan is a thoroughly imported holiday, with no traditional food.

New Year's food such as osechi would be more appropriate, but probably hard to make/buy.

Cindy's church is probably better off sticking to themes from countries where Christmas is actually a traditional part of the culture. Maybe an Australian or New Zealand Christmas table would be good- we have a barbecue and eat salad and ice cream, at the beach if possible.

by Sira rate this post as useful

Nagasaki, again 2008/12/6 00:15
As I mentioned earlier, Christmas is actually a traditional part of the culture in Nagasaki City, Japan. Christianity was imported to Japan in the 16th century by the Portuguese and even today, most of the Nagasaki citizens are baptised as Catholics.

A quick search on the internet tells me that the first Christmas dinner in Japan ever recorded is said to have been the one in 1641. It was conveniently called the "Oranda Touji (Holland Winter Solstice)" as Christianity and all Europeans except the Dutch was banned from Japan in the days. Even the Japanese magistrates were invited, and little did these guests know it was a feast for the illegal Christmas.

White napkins, plates, forks, knives and spoons were said to be used, and the feast is said to have been bread, wine, whole roasted duck and sausages. Scroll down for a painting.

Another website tells me that in the 19the century, the writer Nanpo Ota was invited to a Oranda Touji and was astonished by a dish that was made from the beef brain. Sorry this information is only in Japanese language, but the site also shows bits and pieces of how Christmas had took part in Japanese culture throughout the centuries.

The book, by the way, the portrays the first Oranda Touji (or Oranda Toji) is called "Nagasaki Miyage" meaning "Souveniors of Nagasaki." I found a photo from the book.
by Uco rate this post as useful

Correction 2008/12/6 00:19
I mistyped on my newest message.

Incorrect: the portrays
Correct: that portrays

I am aware that I made more mistakes, but I'm just going to ignore them.
by Uco rate this post as useful

Any unique Japanese Xmas traditions? 2008/12/6 09:34
I know that there have been Christians in Japan for a long time, but they are a small minority and they were also "hidden Christians" for centuries, meaning they didn't really develop unique visible Christmas traditions and foods like the person who asked the question is looking for.

I stick by my claim that Christmas as celebrated in mainstream Japan is about 100% imported (mostly from America), just like Halloween and Valentine's Day.

About the only unusual thing is that a sponge cake is Christmas cake, instead of a heavy fruit cake as in many other countries.
by Sira rate this post as useful

Well, I thought the tonjiru might help 2008/12/6 11:32
I think the chicken leg is probably very Japanese.

For the non-Christians in Japan, typically, Christmas is for children and then couples. So if you have kids who are young enough to expect Santa, you have a home-made Christmas dinner in the evening at home, just for the family.

Typically, the main dish is a chicken leg per person, which is typically grilled in the flat fish-grill equipped in every household. I found a photo of a typical serving. Scroll down.

Turkey is not commonly sold, and a whole chicken would be too small and also too inconvenient, since not many locals are used to handling the knife and fork that well. The chicken leg is often eaten by grabbing the bone part. Salad, soup and boiled rice (in the rice bowl as usual) might be served along with it, of course, followed by the strawberry topped sponge cake.

A small tree would be decorated at the living room, but they sort of disappear as the kids grow older.
by Uco rate this post as useful

17 years 2008/12/6 13:43
Sorry to post again. Back to the original question about the OP's absence of 17 years, this whole Japanese Christmas custom of kiddie dinners, couple's romance, KFC and sponge cakes have been huge for decades. My husband was raised by humble country folk, and he has a photo of a home-made Christmas dinner from the 1950s with little him wearing a party hat.

But the exterior decorations weren't as big in 1991. Today, it is not too unusual to spot reindeers and plastic snowmen on ordinary Japanese household gardens, although it's not that you can see them on every block.

Another difference in Japan is that when Santa comes here every Christmas Eve, he places his presents beside the pillow of each child instead of perhaps leaving it by the tree. But Hokkaido is about the only area in Japan where chimney's are common. When we toured Sapporo, the tour guide told us that she always used to wonder how Santa enters the house in Honshu. Hmm, how does he come?

Anyway, having raised in the U.S., I had a hard time adjusting back to the Christmas custom back home in Japan. For a while, each Christmas I would feel a bit lonely or even wrong. But then, I used to feel a bit lonely and wrong each New Years I spent in California, so hey, what's the difference. I do miss the turkey, but for my husband it seems that Christmas is not here unless he has a chicken leg on his table. But I mail-order a can of fruitcake every year, and my husband is happy enough to race me to empty the can.

I was also wondering if the OP was thinking of a display table rather than a feast table.
by Uco rate this post as useful

I wish... 2008/12/8 15:52
Maybe an Australian or New Zealand Christmas table would be good- we have a barbecue and eat salad and ice cream, at the beach if possible.

Oh, how I wish...we do the full traditional roast turkey, roast pork, roast vegies,(roast mum in kitchen) ham, hot plum pudding, lots of brandy custard, brandy cream, brandy butter (mum needs SOME relief by then) usually all in 40+C heat...we do have cold seafood, and avocado sorbet, for starters though...anglo-celtic origins are hard to bypass in Aus at times....
by fmj rate this post as useful

Brandy 2008/12/8 20:32
fmj, don't forget the shot of brandy!
by Takeru rate this post as useful

absolutely!!!! 2008/12/9 08:12
OOOOH never forget it....Shot of brandy, buckets of champagne, Yarra Valley Merlot,...wouldn't be Christmas....its a great day...
by fmj rate this post as useful

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