by Devon Sponheimer
How do the Japanese celebrate Christmas? A very small majority of Japanese are Christian, so the religious aspects of the holiday are mostly removed. However this doesn't stop the Christmas spirit popping up at attractions and in homes. Looking for a great place to ring in Christmas in 2015? Read our guide below to find out how amazing the Christmas season is in Japan!
Christmas is commercial and the main celebration involves activities on Christmas Eve. It’s important to note though, that Christmas is not a national holiday in Japan. Although many Japanese families will have a small “Christmas Party”, Christmas Eve is a date holiday, the time to treat that special someone to a romantic dinner and enjoy Japan’s spectacular lighting displays.
Here a few special activities that take place around Christmas time in Japan and some you can enjoy as a tourist.
Pick up a Christmas cake.
This delicious white sponge cake is decorated with cream and strawberries, often features stellar pastry work and adorable characters (it is Japan, after all). Alternatively, there are also deluxe chocolate cakes!
The “Christmas Dinner” – by KFC!
As Bryce has mentioned before, thanks to a very successful marketing campaign in the 1970’s and a lack of turkey in Japan, many Japanese families enjoy a ‘traditional’ western holiday meal catered by KFC. This pre-ordered meal has a variety of options ranging from the 5760¥ premium series with a rotisserie chicken to a dinner set 4090¥ with fried chicken in a holiday themed “party barrel”, salad, chocolate cake, and commemorative plate.
Enjoy the Colonel dressed up like Santa throughout KFC’s in Japan!
We’ve touched about the Tokyo Tower’s seasonal illuminations but the illuminations during this time of year in Japan are something to behold! Several different sites around the country light up with brilliant displays, many staying lit through Valentine’s Day.
Here are your MUST SEE illuminations:
Shiodome - Caretta Illumination
- Open: November 13 – January 12 (Closed Jan 1-2) Open from 5pm until 11pm nightly.
- Theme: “Canyon d’Azur” -- an ocean of over 250,000 blue LED lights.
- Highlights: The “Light of the Corridor” a 15m corridor covered in 360-degree lights, the “Pillar of Light” a 10m pillar wrapped in lights and the “Carillon Tree” a 6m tree decorated much the same. Not to miss “Special program”: Every 20 minutes the illumination will feature a musical performance.
Shinjuku - Terrace City
- Open: November 12 – February 25. Open 5pm to midnight nightly.
- Highlights: Although located throughout Shinjuku’s Terrace City, the best displays are on the Shinjuku Southern Terrace. Check out the stunning blue trees!
- Christmas trees line Chuo Street and don’t forget about the Mikimoto Jumbo Tree! A 30+year tradition of a beautiful tree located in front of the Mikimoto main store in Ginza.
- Open: November 4th through December 25th from 5pm to 11pm.
- Theme: The Roppongi Hills Artelligent Illumintation.
- Highlights: For the 6th year in a row, Roppongi Hills collaborates with Samsung electronics. It features two special programs, “Candle & Red” and “Blue and Snow”. Try your luck to find the Hidden Heart featured for 5 minutes every ½ hour. Bonus points for romance if you enhance your evening with a visit to the Oak Door at the Grant Hyatt Tokyo!
Sagamiko Resort Pleasure Forest
- Open: Nov 1 - Apr 12 (Daily until Jan 7, after that only open during weekends and holidays)
- Cost: 600Yen
- Highlights: Sagamiko resort is one of the largest and most impressive light displays in Japan (and a stand out world wide) with over 5 million LED lights used across the entire park this is a jaw dropping production. with many scenes created throughout with accompanying music, synced with dancing lights, if you're in Japan during this, it's a must see. The amusement park is also open to visitors, so take advantage of the hilltop ferris wheel and see the massive span of lights from above.
- Open: November 13th through December 25 from 5pm until 11pm.
- Theme: “Everyone is Somebody’s Santa Claus” & “Midtown Cruise”
- Highlights: This event features a welcome illumination, a ”Tree Illuminations”, “Starlight Road” (blue and white lit trees) “Champagne Illumination” (9 sparkling trees in the shape of a champagne glass, promising the ‘perfect (spot) for a mature and emotional Christmas’) “Miracle Tree” (a 60 year old tree decorated in pink), “Enya Tree” (planted by Enya herself!) and finally the “Starlight Garden” (180,000 lights and the climax of the Midtown Cruise). The theme of the garden is Space Journey and for the first time a ‘stick illumination’ has been added, the only one of its kind in Japan. This special illumination sends lights 4m into the air creating 3D features for a 3 ½ minute show. Beyond the illumination, they also have a Santa Tree, Diamond Dust Ice and light display, Frost Flower Chandelier, a Christmas Market, and live performances.
Odaiba Memorial Tree Christmas
- Open: November 16th through December 25th, a New Year’s version from December 26th until January 13th and ending with a Valentines and White day illumination from January 14th through March 16th.
- Highlights: Illuminations are held nightly from 5pm until midnight. located in Kaihin Park, this tree is illuminated for the 18th year in a row. This year, they present “a gift of light”. With over 120,000 color changing blubs synchronized to Christmas music, this one is surely not to miss.
Tokyo Dome City
- Open: November 6th through February 15th from 5pm until 1am
- Theme: “Promenade of Light”
- Highlights: This very impressive display features over 2.2 million lights. In conjunction with the new space museum, these illuminations also feature Ultraman themed decorations with many light up displays.
Festival of Light Osaka
- Open: December 1st through January 18th from 4pm until 10pm.
- Highlights: This festival features many different aspects, with even buildings and bridges around Osaka participating in the illumination. They are separated into two main places the Hikari-Renaisssance and the Mido-suji Illuminations.
Another must see during the Christmas season in Japan is Universal Studios Osaka and the Tokyo Disney Resort.
All the parks have amazing Christmas offerings, such as elaborate Christmas parades, beautiful decorations, trees, lights throughout and many of your favourite characters all decked out in their christmas finest. If you have time and are in Tokyo and Osaka be sure to check them out.
Both offer amazing seasonal snacks and meals that are too delicious to pass up, as well as their amazing year round offerings of some of the best rides and attractions in the world!
- Universal Wonder Christmas runs from Nov 14th - Jan 6th
- Disney's Christmas Fantasy (Both Parks) runs from Nov 7th - Dec 25th.
With so much to do and see in Japan over the Christmas season, although it's a country that doesn't celebrate the season as a national holiday, they sure do deliver in brining the Christmas spirit in amazing displays and attractions! If you ever have the chance take Japanning's recommendation and try to spend some of the Christmas season in Japan. You won't be disapointed!