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Japanese Culture: Christmas in Japan Posted by on Dec 22, 2008 in Holidays

Christmas is not a national holiday in Japan.  Nevertheless, some people still find time to celebrate Christmas, even after a long day at work.  The Japanese have a tendency to take a tradition and make it uniquely their own.  Some of the things that I’m going to mention in this post are going to sound strange to some people, but like any culture that comes in contact with another culture, tweaking things here and there is only natural.

For example, instead of a turkey or ham dinner, Japanese people like to buy fried chicken from KFC for Christmas.  Why KFC?  It’s a clever marketing strategy run by the KFC corporation in Japan.  Sometimes I’ll walk by the KFC restaurants and discover to my shock, that people are waiting in line for some KFC chicken.  Don’t get me wrong, I like KFC, but I don’t exactly associate Christmas with KFC.  I suspect though, some people are confused with the image of Colonel Sanders as being the same person as Santa Claus.  (Pronounced as Santa Kuroosu (サンタクロース) in Japanese.)  Both are elderly Caucaisan men, so they must be the same person, right?

In the American tradition, Santa Claus is the bearer of gifts for children who have behaved well all throughout the year.  The Japanese also have this type of figure.  His name is Hoteiosho (ほていおしょ).  He’s a buddhist monk, with a large belly and a cloth sack full of toys.  He has eyes in the back of his head, which means that he’s able to see the children and how they behave without them knowing.  Hoteisosho (ほていおしょ) is one of the seven gods of fortune.  He’s one of the more jovial, happy-go-lucky chaps, which is very convenient, because I don’t think a vengeful and scary god is something that is appealing for children.

Everyone, I hope this year you were all good boys and girls.  Merry Christmas (メリークリスマス)!

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  1. roy:

    Don’t forget the KFC Buffet in Osaka the only in Japan
    http://www.japansugoi.com/wordpress/kfc-buffet-in-osaka/