Christmas Traditions in Japan
Although Christmas day is not widely celebrated in Japan, there is always a lot of build up and excitement as the festive season approaches. Normally at the beginning of November, you will start to see beautifully decorated Christmas trees being displayed in shopping centers, white lights covering the trees on the streets, and cute Christmas cakes being sold.
Some fun facts: did you know in Japan, it is more common for people to spend time and celebrate with friends and partners around Christmas and New Years with family? Also, there is a tradition to eat fried chicken from KFC on Christmas eve!
In Tokyo itself, there are many different things to do and places to visit to get into the festive mood. From admiring the different Christmas Illuminations to enjoying a seasonal beverage, here are just some of the things that we recommend doing:
See Winter Illuminations
Tokyo is lit up even more than usual in the lead up to Christmas. Many areas around the city including Omotesando, Marunouchi and the Tokyo Sky Tree area, have free Winter Illuminations which you can walk around and admire.
For a truly spectacular and unique sight, we recommend heading to the Blue Cave. This set of illuminations, which includes around 770,000 blue LED lights, starts from Shibuya Koen-dori Street and goes all the way down to the Keyaki Namiki area in Yoyogi Park. These beautiful blue lights provide a perfect setting for a romantic date night. This year’s theme is “AONODOKUTSU SHIBUYA: Day & Night” and for the first time, there will be a Christmas market to enjoy as well.
The illuminations in the Roppongi Hills area are also a great place to go and visit. The main illuminations, consisting of 800,000 bright white and blue LED lights, can be seen down on Keyakizaka Street. However, you will want to make some time to go and check out the Mohri Garden Illumination (pictured above), the Cartier Christmas tree in the West Walk and the Luminous Bouquet in the Roku-Roku Plaza.
Go to Christmas Markets
A few different Christmas markets take place across the city as well. Most of these markets take inspiration from those in Europe so expect to find stalls selling traditional gifts as well as mulled wine and beer.
The Tokyo Christmas Market is one of the most anticipated Christmas events. This year, the market will be held from the 11th November and has been scaled-up thanks to its new location in Meiji Jingu Gaien. As always, the market will feature its impressive 14m-tall Christmas pyramid and display its traditional European-style ornaments. Entry for adults costs ￥1000, and ￥500 for children (elementary school age). If you buy your admission ticket in advance online, you will receive an original Christmas mug.
One of the other most famous Christmas markets is the one at Yokohama Red Brick Warehouse. Starting on the 24th November, this year’s market will be the biggest yet with there being 50 different stalls. Many people choose to visit this particular market because there is also a large outdoor ice-skating rink. Admission costs ￥500 for adults but is free for children under elementary school age.
Christmas at Tokyo's Top Amusement Parks
Many young people, couples, and families head to some of Tokyo’s main amusement parks around the Christmas season.
Unsurprisingly, Disneyland is on top of most people’s list. This is because the Christmas spirit is truly brought alive at the park through seasonal decorations, magical parades and firework shows. Even some of Disney’s most loved characters such as Mickey and Minnie Mouse can be found wearing Christmas attire. For those committed Disney fans, you can also get your hands on exclusive Christmas merchandise.
Another popular amusement park to visit at this time of year is Yomiuirland. The winter event, known as Jewellumination, is a true sight to behold. Every ride and area in the park is covered with dazzling multicolored LED lights. This year, you can even enjoy food off the limited-time Jewellumination menu, including Heart Love Bolognese and the Love♡Berry crepe. You can buy your tickets in advance on their official website.
Sip on Seasonal Drinks
As you might already know, Japan loves their seasonal goods and Christmas is no exception. Many of the big coffee chains like Tully’s Coffee and Doutour begin selling special festive drinks in the month of November. However, it is Starbucks which is most renowned for their holiday beverages.
This year, the showstopper drink at Starbucks is the ‘Merry Cream’, a strawberry and vanilla frappuccino which has whipped cream and pink glitter on top. It has already gained popularity on social media, with many people going to Starbucks just to try the drink and see what the hype is about.
If the ‘Merry Cream’ isn’t to your liking, the coffee chain is also selling other seasonal drinks including a Gingerbread Latte, Creme Brulee Latte and a Joyful Medley Tea Latte.
How will you be spending the festive season in Tokyo?