By Paola Marisela González
This year the world has faced unprecedented circumstances, however, traditions and festivities continue to bring people together even in the most challenging of times. Christmas is an occasion celebrated all over the world, but it takes on a different meaning depending on each place, and as a result there are various ways to enjoy the season. Ultimately, Christmas in Japan is no exception.
In this article, we outline some of the options available to celebrate Christmas in Japan 2020.
How is Christmas in Japan usually celebrated?
During Christmas in Japan, there are no national holidays, and businesses remain open until the New Year, giving them the opportunity to launch interesting seasonal promotions. Unlike in western countries, where most people regard Christmas as a family tradition, in Japan it is mostly celebrated by adults with their partner or their friends, making it a great time to advertise dining alternatives and special events.
Even though some people do exchange gifts, Christmas in Japan is more focused on having an experience, like the “traditional” KFC dinner or eating out in restaurants offering Christmas specials. Besides, seasonal products can be found in many different businesses, especially if they are related to food, beverages or popular gift options.
As you can read in our article Promoting Christmas in Japan 2019, campaigns during this season can be extended to many kinds of goods and services, including matchmaking apps, job-seeking websites, train rides, and luxurious hotel packages. Even if the tradition of gift-giving is not as relevant as in the west, gifts are becoming more commonly expected during this season between couples, so it is possible to find campaigns and promotions that serve this purpose.
Available options to celebrate Christmas in Japan 2020
Many restaurants, resorts and theme parks are preparing to celebrate Christmas in Japan. With life slowly returning to normal, most establishments have been implementing measures to prevent the further spread of Covid-19, allowing people to safely celebrate. However, as regulations keep changing, it’s worthwhile checking venue websites before making a visit.
Luxury Restaurant Deals to Enjoy a Tasty Christmas in Japan 2020
In Japan, dining options can be found to fit every taste and budget. At Christmas, there is a large variety of places with seasonal menus and buffets to enjoy the occasion. Several restaurants with Christmas specials are part of the Japanese government’s controversial ‘Go To Eat’ campaign, which offers discounts and rewards for eating there. Targeting those looking for a more luxurious night out, the Tokyo Kaikan restaurants offer several Christmas courses, as well as Christmas cakes that are highly sought after by Japanese people during this time of the year.
Most of the main hotel branches also offer Christmas buffets and dinners that attract a number of visitors, especially among foreigners looking for a Christmas experience similar to what they’re used to. Some of the hotels offering special Christmas dinners this year are; the Grand Hyatt Tokyo, the Sheraton Yokohama Bay, and the Hilton Tokyo.
Warming up with Trips to Hotels and Hot Springs
Because promotions for Christmas in Japan are often aimed at couples, hotels offer packages that include a night’s stay at the hotel, dinner and some other special festive offers such as Christmas cake or beverages like wine or champagne included with the reservation. According to last year’s Rakuten Travel ranking, the top 3 hotels in Tokyo to spend Christmas were; Prince Hotel Shinagawa, Hotel Tokyo Dome, and Hotel Trusty Tokyo Bayside.
Some people also enjoy spending this cold time of the year visiting hot springs that have been prepared especially for Christmas and New Year’s Eve, and these can be found all across Japan. For example, in Shizuoka prefecture, the Izukogen Claris and Yubata Kagetsutei hot spring resorts are offering Christmas cake and sparkling wine for guests on Christmas Eve, while the Nakadanasou Onsen in Nagano Prefecture has a package that includes Christmas dinner.
In the north of Japan, it is also possible to spend the winter holidays at ski resorts. Many of these places have packages for a stay of an average of seven nights that include daily breakfasts and mountain lift passes. Some hotels even include daily dinners and airport transfers. In Hokkaido, there’s the Kiroro Ski Resort, hotels in the Niseko Village area, and Rusutsu Resort. This year, it is possible to apply Go To Travel campaign discounts to bookings for the Christmas season.
Events to celebrate Christmas in Japan 2020
Before the Covid pandemic, there would regularly be Christmas concerts and theme parks would run their own shows for Christmas in Japan. This year, however, some of these options are being cancelled to help control the spread of the virus. Nevertheless, there are still several Christmas events to be enjoyed. Illuminations are a wonderful way to spend a winter day during Christmas in Japan.
The most popular Christmas illuminations in Tokyo are the Roppongi Hills Illuminations which usually take place from 5pm to 11pm from early November to late December; and the Blue Cave Shibuya Illumination, which can be seen between 5pm to 10pm throughout December. In Osaka, there are also some famous Illuminations like the one in the Grand Front Osaka shopping centre, and the Festival of the Lights Osaka 2020, taking place at Osaka City Central Public Hall and Nakanoshima Park with several events starting on November 3rd and running until the last day of December.
Christmas markets have also become very popular among Japanese people. In Tokyo, the biggest one is the Tokyo Christmas Market in Shiba Park that will be open from December 10th to 25th, offering a wide variety of food, drinks and other products. Another is the Tokyo Skytree Town Dream Christmas which will host a range of events from late November until December 25th.
Limited Edition Gifts for Christmas in Japan 2020
During Christmas in Japan, many seasonal products and campaigns are released to offer customers alternatives to gifts, food and drink. Many of these limited edition Christmas goods feature popular Japanese characters like Pokémon or Sanrio. Cafeterias, restaurants and theme parks also have special additions to their menus, including Christmas cakes, and a wide variety of sweet treats that are perfect to give as gifts.
As mentioned earlier, Christmas primarily targets Japanese couples, and gift-giving is becoming expected between partners during this time of the year. Therefore, Japanese gift shop Anny conducted a series of surveys to find out what kind of gifts men and women preferred to receive. The top 10 results for men were wallets, clothes, experiences (travel, dining), scarfs, watches, backpacks, neckties, keyholders, gloves, and shoes. For women, the top 10 results were experiences (travel, dining), rings, necklaces, purses, wallets, earrings, make-up, watches, beauty products, and sweets.
Beauty products and make-up brands release limited edition items. To celebrate Christmas in Japan 2020, some examples of attractive gift alternatives are the Rouge Dior Couture Collection which includes a couture make-up case inspired by winter wonderlands that comes with a selection of five of the most desirable Rouge Dior lipsticks. Another make-up holiday special, only available in Japan, is the time-limited Cosme Decorté set which features an eye shadow palette, a gel eyeliner, a lip Gloss, a gel-based highlighter and a holiday-themed pouch.
Christmas is a magical time no matter where you spend it, but in Japan, it’s definitely possible to find events and products that will make it an unforgettable experience. Christmas in Japan 2020 is replete with a range of events, dining options, and retail offers that follow the necessary Covid guidelines enabling everyone to celebrate safely with their family, friends or partners.
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