Ahhh…Christmas in Japan. Japan differs greatly from the last two countries that we have examined in that less than 1% of its population is Christian. Way less than 1%. So, you could imagine that many of the religious traditions and aspects of the holiday are not present here. And you would be right.
Christmas in Japan is a highly commercialized and secular event. In fact, it not actually an official holiday here. Unless it happens to fall on a weekend most people do not get the day off and society continues as normal. Japanese New Year is actually much more widely celebrated and important than Christmas, which often gets swept up in the celebration of bounenkai, or forget-the-year parties, which basically entails partying for the bulk of December. Aside from that though, Christmas has taken on two unique meanings in Japan, one a bit surprising, and one not at all.
Surprisingly Christmas has become the Japanese equivalent to America's St. Valentine's Day. It is becoming a popular day for young lovers to meet and you know, wine, dine. Go to the Humpolympics. Usually it involves a fancy dinner, maybe a really nice hotel, it's become a day on which to celebrate love. How crazy is that? Let's get together, let's have some sake, let's go get a super expensive (and it's Japan, so I guarantee you that it's super expensive) hotel room in a high rise and go at it all not. I LOVE IT! How can you not like a tradition like that? And apparently lots of people do, because I hear it's very hard to get hotel or restaurant reservations on that night in most of Japan.
While that little twist on Christmas may come as a surprise, this next Japanese Christmas fact should really not if you think about it for more than two seconds. Aside from all the mad scrumpage, Japanese Christmas is highly commercialized. Kind of like another country we know of, isn't it? Many corporations in Japan will put up trees and decorate their offices, but that's about it. Christmas is strange to most Japanese, in so much as very few know the origins of the event. It is mostly the American influence that has brought Christmas to Japan but they have made it uniquely Japanese for sure. Even if that meant turning it into the Japanese Valentine's Day. I wonder what they do on Feb 14?