Happy Holidays to all of our readers and partners in travel. For this month’s feature we will show how some very familiar holidays are celebrated, a bit differently, in Japan.
Christmas in Japan is a fun casual holiday mostly spent with loved ones. Christmas Eve in particular is widely considered a romantic date night for couples, similar to Valentine’s Day in the US.
Many companies have used Christmas as a way to promote their products. One such promotion that has tuned into a Christmas tradition in Japan was done by the Fujiya Store in 1922 when they promoted strawberry and whipped cream covered sponge cakes as "Christmas Cakes." Even today it is common for families or friends to enjoy a similar cake together on Christmas Eve.
Another promotion that took off, and that Americans find amusing, is having a bucket of Kentucky Fried Chicken as a holiday meal. In 1974 KFC was still gaining in popularity in Japan and decided as a franchise to promote a special bucket meal as a Christmas tradition. It was very successful and still continues as an annual promotion to this day.
New Year's Celebrations in Japan are the big family holiday of the year. Many offices close down for the first few days of the year so everyone can go home and spend time with their families. One of the most widely practiced activity is the first prayer of the New Year. Families will journey to their home temple to pray for a prosperous Year. Many temples are very festive and travelers will enjoy the many food and product stalls that dot the temple grounds. Most families will spend a few days at home enjoying family time and eating the traditional Osechi bento boxes.
A more modern, fun activity is buying up "Lucky Bags" at stores all across Japan. Department Stores and even high end brand stores put together mystery bags for a set price and sell them early on January 1st. Some shoppers camp out in long lines to obtain the most popular of bags even though it is a gamble as to what will actually be in them.
Like many other international holidays, Valentine's Day was introduced to Japan as a promotion by local company. In 1936 Morozoff, a confectionary, introduced the holiday of Valentine’s Day as a way to sell more chocolates. In Japan the tradition is for women to give chocolates and gifts on February 14th. Confectionary companies saw opportunity in this one-way giving holiday so in 1978 the National Confectionary Industry Association introduced White Day on March 14th as a day for men to return the affections of women who gave them chocolate on February 14th. You can read more about these holidays here!
While many foreign companies, such as Disney® have hosted Halloween celebrations in Japan for many years, it has only be recently that the dress-up holiday has become popular outside of these corporate promotions. Trick or treating by children is not a large part of the holiday, it has mostly become a holiday for young adults to dress up and party. Large public parties and costume parades take place in place like Shibuya in Tokyo or at Amerikamura in Osaka.
For more information on Traditional Events in Japan check out the JNTO event page!
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