Takako Tomura’s Xmas get together this week has all the festive trimmings. Kids decorate a pine tree with tinsel and hand-built decorations, as grown ups toast mulled wine and absolutely everyone exchanges items.
Then the families sit down to enjoy the regular Japanese Christmas meal — mounds of Kentucky Fried Chicken.
As with other overseas celebrations, these types of as Halloween and Valentine’s Working day, Japan has embraced Christmas with gusto — despite the fact that the religious aspects are mainly missed in a nation where by only 1% of the population is Christian.
As a substitute, Christmas Eve is regarded a single of the most romantic times of the calendar year in Japan, and substantial-finish dining places and inns are generally booked months in advance. And despite the fact that coronavirus has put a damper on a romantic Xmas Eve this yr, the home windows of office suppliers are still full of presents for substantial some others.
Several Japanese young children believe in Santa Claus, and will uncover a current beneath their Christmas tree, inspite of the lack of chimneys in Japan. Then they have to go to college, as December 25 is nonetheless a university day.
Xmas — lost in translation
All these traditions are direct imports from the West, although there are without doubt some dropped-in translation times, these as the Tokyo department shop that displayed a Santa Claus nailed to a cross in its window.
Having said that, the Japanese Xmas tradition of purchasing KFC for the vacation meal is a specially curious tailor made for Westerners, who may possibly balk at the concept of feasting with rapid-foods chicken.
“We often purchase KFC at Christmas because that is what my mom and dad applied to do when I was young,” explained Tomura, a 40-yr-old housewife from Yokohama.
“It was always a little bit of a address when I was younger as we didn’t go out to restaurants so normally again then. And KFC appeared overseas and unique,” she extra.
Fifty many years of KFC in Japan
The tale guiding KFC’s in close proximity to monopoly on the fast-foods Xmas feast dates back again to 1970, according to the organization. When the to start with KFC outlet in Japan opened its doorways, it was popular with foreigners who had not acquired a taste for Japanese delicacies.
The supervisor of the cafe, Takeshi Okawara, overheard some foreigners bemoaning the actuality that it was impossible to get turkey in Japan to celebrate Xmas. Okawara came up with the concept of a “social gathering barrel” that could be bought in the run-up to Xmas, with rooster serving as the substitute for the traditional turkey.
By 1974, the company’s Xmas marketing campaign had long gone nationwide beneath the slogan “Kentucky for Xmas.”
It grew to become a nationwide phenomenon, in aspect because the Japanese had been continue to marginally unsure about the protocols bordering this overseas holiday, but they understood all about KFC.
Combined with a intelligent marketing marketing campaign, and Colonel Sanders’ recipe for fried chicken is now synonymous with a festive Japanese Christmas.
The colonel himself will get into the spirit of items, with the life-dimensions statues that are exterior every keep in the state dressed in a Father Xmas costume.
Okawara’s brilliant concept was also a hit with the corporation and he swiftly rose by way of the KFC ranks, serving as president of KFC Japan from 1984 to 2002.
The custom was started in the 1970s when Westerners couldn’t discover a appropriate Xmas supper
“I bear in mind my father bringing a ‘party barrel’ residence when I was a teenager in the early 1970s and considering how different and enjoyable it was,” said Tomoko Ooko, 67, a housewife from Saitama Prefecture, north of Tokyo.
“Even now, KFC dining places can be observed any where in Japan, but I by no means eat there and my relatives only orders take-out at Christmas,” she mentioned.
“It has become a tradition in our house now, even however I have heard that they do not take in KFC in other nations for Christmas. I was stunned when I read that.”
Cornering the Christmas dinner market
KFC is celebrating 50 a long time in Japan this calendar year and has considerably expanded its Xmas choices around the decades.
The “Barrels” have developed into specially manufactured bins with chicken, wine and cake that are sufficient to feed an total loved ones.
KFC released a exclusive Xmas menu out there from December 19 for seven times, with a Bash Barrel costing practically €40 ($49), together with 8 items of rooster, a shrimp gratin, tiramisu cake and 2020 Xmas plate.
About 10 a long time ago, McDonald’s Japan attempted to consider a bite out of KFC’s Xmas sector with a very similar marketing campaign made to woo rapidly-food items enthusiasts. Even though McDonalds has a lot more shops across the state, Xmas diners largely stayed loyal to KFC and a 50-calendar year-old tradition.