Expat Magazine

Japanese Christmas Traditions

By Martinemler

Actually Japan has no traditional Christmas like I know it from Germany. Japanese going to Christmas parties and eating Christmas cake. Every year people asking me how we celebrate Christmas in Japan. We, meaning I drag my Japanese husband into it, celebrating Christmas on the eve of the 24th of December with my family, which always ends with a church service around midnight. On the 25th we are going to a Christmas brunch in a big hotel in Tokyo. This is actually not a German custom, I picked it up in Singapore from a British couple because I do not have family in Tokyo/Singapore. My Japanese in law will me more than surprised when we show up and expect them to be all in lovey dovey Christmas mood. The New Year celebration is much more important, Christmas is not, maybe even the Chinese New Year, which is a little bit later than the official worldwide one. Well, Expat families sometimes going back to their home country. We did this once and are not keen to do this again. It was more like a Family tour through Germany, the feeling for Christmas was not there. Of course there are years were we might go back but we like to stay at home. On the 26. of December we usually eat meat fondue.



Japanese Christmas Cake


This is really quaint. Japanese Christmas Cake. White chocolate with strawberries. This “Christmas kaki” is usually eaten on Christmas eve and we always try to do it because ….


In the past Japanese called women over 25 years old Christmas-kaki. Christmas-kaki are eaten on the 24th or 25th but not later. Nobody likes to eat it later and that is the same with women over 25 years, nobody wanted them.






And this is a really special one

because it is not white, noooo …. brown!



Christmas-Tree Minato Mirai

Yokohama Minato Mirai – every day at 5.30pm lightshow


Japanese listen to Beethovens 9th



Japanese buy Kentucky Fried Chicken



This custom I did not know about until a friend pointed it out to me. At one point my husband mention that we should go to Kentucky Fried Chicken on Christmas, just like he mention the Christmas Cake.  Well, I did not take his suggestion seriously, more like it was a joke and definitely I did not think that this was a Christmas tradition anywhere in the world. Today, it is not as present as some years ago. It slowly extinct but still worth mentioning it.



Christmas tree


For christmas you need a tree. In Japan I used to buy my tree at Ikea but they are really ugly. They look like scarecrows and I have the talent to choose every year a more uglier one than the one from the year before. From mid of November Ikea is offering christmas trees and they are almost nude by end of December and it is a little bit awkward in the living room, since we are heating a lot. So last year I wanted to buy an artificial one, if I cannot find a nice one or should I decorate a bonsai?

Christmas trees choices

Well, I found a beautiful one with roots.


Duck for Christmas

Well, I am from Germany and in my family it is tradition to eat duck. Eating duck in Japan is not really common. I think most of the people in Japan think this is disgusting. Whenever I ask, they glance at me with a little surprise. It is hard to find duck in Japan. China town in Yokohama is a good address or any pond in a park :). Once my husband ordered duck over rakuten.com and it came from France. A whole duck is usually to big for Japanese oven and it is very difficult for me (German) to make the duck right in those ovens. However, the duck was most probably at least 100 years old ….



Am Teich

At the pond …




Well, it not such a big problem but I have a problem to get unsalted butter before christmas. Unsalted butter is most of the time sold out or rationed at Tokyo store.  Before christmas you are only allowed to buy 200g (in 2012). My oven is also really not a oven in the German mind, my kitchen is more a barbie doll kitchen.





Margarine & Butter salted

Margarine & Butter salted

Advents Calendar

You can get them everywhere. I bought some at Motomachi Union for my teens. Those were even from Germany. You can do your own as well. Ikea has some ready made and you can put your own ideas into each drawer. Japan is a paradise for handicraft.


Advent calendar



Advent wreath 

I do my own because I have limit space. Sometime a pine branch and four candles are good to go. Another option is to get a advent wreath at the Christmas market at the Evangelical German Church in Tokyo (consisting of Lutheran, Reformed and United Protestant congregations). A lot of German specialties are available there and I just love that christmas market. It is the closest to the original German markets in Germany.



Ikea gingerbread house



It is hard to get a fondue for meat in Japan.  Takashimaya might be the best place but I could not find one. My sister brought me one from Germany. My old set went missing when we moved. Cheese and chocolate fondue set you can find more easily.




Christmas cards

Japanese love to write christmas cards, just like the Germans and many other cultures in the world.

I hope you like this little trip into my world!





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