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Christmas around the World: Celebrating Christmas in Japan

You’d just Love celebrating Christmas in Japan

The major religions in Japan are Buddhism and Shinto and with less than 1% of the Japanese population being Christian, Christmas is more of a commercial event with the main celebrations revolving around Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.

Although Christmas is not a national holiday in Japan with shops and companies opening as normal, the Japanese have adopted parts of this Western tradition into their December calender. Walking through Japan throughout the Christmas season,  you would be greeted with the usual Christmas music, decorations and seasonal foods that you would find in the West and in some places in Japan, European Christmas markets have started appearing such as a German one in Sapporo.

But despite it’s superficial similarities, there are some striking differences about the way that Christmas is celebrated by the Japanese. Although not a religious event, it is not a celebration of Santa Claus either, or a time for families to connect and spend time together. Surprisingly, the Christmas season in Japan is all about love. In fact Christmas Eve in Japan is looked upon as the most romantic day of year with fancy restaurants holding special reservations for months at a time and expensive romantic gifts being swept off the shelves.

In fact, the adoption of our “Western Consumerism” into the hearts and calendar’s of our Japanese friends has produced some interesting side effects – both linguistically and culturally.

Western style Christmas parties are now often held by Japanese companies, in conjunction with the traditional Japanese  Bonenkai (Forget the year) celebrations. And while Christmas presents are given to children, the older generation combines this together with the traditional giving of Oseibo gifts, to give thanks to the people who have shown you kindness during the year such as clients, superiors at work, and important people such as your doctor or landlord.

As for the younger generation in Japan, with the pressure mounting up to a frenzy in December to acquire a date for Christmas Eve, they have coined a (rather unkind) term for those who fail to do so. By combining parts of English and  Japanese words together the term “KURIBOCHI” [クリぼっち]  was born. Kuribochi literally means “Alone at Christmas” With the Kuri [クリ] being written in the Katakana alphabet to display it’s Western roots. Bochi [ぼっち] is taken from the word Hittoribochi [ひとりぼっち] to mean alone and is written in the Japanese Hiragana alphabet.

But if you do manage to escape the curse of the “Kuribochi! you had better be ready to spend all your hard earned cash on the most lavish restaurants and expensive gifts there are to meet the high expectations of your Christmas Eve date! For those of you selling your products through e-commerce platforms, this is a splendid opportunity to reach out to a new Japanese audience with exciting East meets West gift ideas for the Christmas period.

Did you know?

KFC is one of the most popular Japanese Christmas dinners

Ladies over the age of 25 without a date on Christmas Eve are referred to as “Out of date Christmas cake”

How to say “Merry Christmas” in Japanese – easy – “Merry Christmas”

How to write “Merry Christmas” in Japanese – メリークリスマス









Christmas around the World: Celebrating Christmas in Japan
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Christmas around the World: Celebrating Christmas in Japan
We discuss how the Japanese celebrate Christmas in our Christmas around the World series.

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About Sharon Stephens

Sharon Stephens is Operations Director of Lingua Translation. With a First Class Honours Degree in Translation and a University Lecturer in Translation (Masters), she is a self confessed language geek! Bringing the academic principles of translation and business together Sharon offers a quality-driven and needs centric translation and interpreting service - like no other.

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