Christmas in Japan

Kenny and I decided to (sort of) celebrate Christmas in Japan this year. We didn’t get a tree or decorate the apartment, and we exchanged gifts long before the date (and not at the same time), but nonetheless we (sort of) celebrated Christmas.

Christmas in Japan is very different from how it is in the states. Japan is not a Christian nation at all, so Christmas here is 100% about the consumerism. It’s about as important as Halloween is to the US. Families usually get a big bucket of KFC for dinner and are shocked if you tell them Christmas dinner is essentially another Thanksgiving. After dinner comes the Christmas cake, which traditionally is a yellow cake frosted with whipped cream and covered in strawberries. I’m fairly certain everyone in Japan thinks strawberries are in season right now because they’re everywhere. I assume they’re getting them from Australia. Young couples usually go on dates to very fancy restaurants on Christmas. Kenny and I did that when were here two years ago, but decided it wasn’t worth it this year. For one, Kenny had to work both Christmas Eve and Day, so we would’ve had to wait for him to come home before catching a 90 minute train to Tokyo which would be packed and blah blah blah who cares.

My parents did send us gifts for the holidays. They bought us a nice Blu-Ray player (which we are very grateful for). A few weeks later they mailed us two boxes of Cheezits, two bags of Hershey’s Kisses, and two iTunes gift cards. We were happy to get anything, and we certainly didn’t expect so much!


On Christmas Eve. we didn’t have the traditional Christmas dinner of Japan (fried chicken). Instead, we bought a roasted one. We would’ve made it ourselves, but we don’t have an oven (no one does; it’s extremely annoying). We do have an awesome tiny mom and pop chicken store a kilometer away. They make chicken several different ways, and also sell it raw. Needless to say, we buy all of our chicken from them. The chicken people are like family.


We did get a Christmas cake! Again, would’ve made one, but we don’t have an oven. We bought it from the local bakery. We went for the traditional one I described above. Neither of us like frosting on cakes, so the whipped cream was fantastic. It was the best cake I’ve ever had. We’ve only had one piece each so far; we’re saving the rest for the weekend.


After dinner and cake we watched It’s a Wonderful Life and enjoyed fruit, hot cocoa, and cookies.


Christmas Day, once Kenny returned from work we went to a really nice bar a block away. They don’t exactly make Christmas-y drinks so we settled on fun ones and got mojitos.


Then the food came. Check out that tuna sashimi. There was plenty of wasabi and avocado. It had been a few weeks since I’d had any sashimi or sushi, and I don’t think I’ll ever go that long again.


This is our favorite item at the bar. Chicken covered with some kind of miso sauce. We usually talk the owner into giving us some of the miso to take home so we can put it on our own chicken.


I’ve posted a picture of this before, but it’s worth showing again. Udon with raw egg and scallions. WOW. I don’t know how it tastes good, but it really does!


Then came the funniest part of the night. Kenny was tired and ordered some coffee with milk. Unfortunately, the word for “and” and “with” is the same. So they brought a cup of hot coffee for Kenny and a cup of warm milk for me, thinking that’s what we wanted. We laughed through the rest of the meal, joking about going to a bar and telling the bartender what a long, hard day it’s been and asking for a pint of warm milk. But you know what? It was the best warm milk I’ve ever had. Nice and fatty, the way milk should be.


We came home and watched Love Actually, just like I’m sure some of my readers did. It didn’t feel like Christmas at all, but we didn’t want it to. It wasn’t about that. We made it about us. And I think that’s how I want December 25th to be from now on.

This weekend, tomorrow actually, we’re going to Tokyo to meet one of Kenny’s friends who happens to be in the country on business. We are planning on going back to Rokurinsha, the tsukemen restaurant I had a post on a couple months back. More on that later.

For those of you who do celebrate Christmas, I hope it was very special!


4 thoughts on “Christmas in Japan

  1. susan

    Sounds like a great Christmas to me. The food and drinks look very yummy.
    We do not celebrate Christmas at this house either. Since we have grand kids we do get them a few things. We had a few friends over, and went to a very delicious Chinese restaurant a few blocks away. It was packed (may i say with Jews)? And other people as well, of course! Maybe if we were Christians we would feel differently. the commercialism here, as you know, really sucks. I am so glad that aspect of it is mostly over. Mike and I both worked the day before, and day after. It is very quiet out, and not much traffic.
    New megaband tunes are out, and we are busy with those. Some really nice ones. Are you playing yet?
    I really like reading your posts, keep them coming!!!!

    1. Sarah C.

      Dana, you said you mentioned having to go to work on Christmas Eve. What type of work are you doing over there? Is it similar to Kenny’s job?

      1. Dana Post author

        It’s actually Kenny who had to work on Christmas, not me (I’ll go back and make sure there’s no typo).

        I’m working part time doing private English instruction. 🙂

    2. Dana Post author

      I’ve been practicing the fiddle a lot lately! Please tell people hello for me. I miss megaband so, so much! Yeah I think if I was Christian I’d feel differently. This holiday doesn’t have any spiritual significance to me, and it was actually nice to be in a country that doesn’t celebrate it that much.


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