Over the past few decades, Japan has developed its own slightly different ways of celebrating Christmas. Take the phenomenon of the Christmas Kentucky Fried Christmas meal, which began life as a clever campaign by the company and managed to hoodwink the nation into believing that Americans ate roasted chicken to celebrate the day. As ovens are not a feature of Japanese kitchens, KFC was marketed as the next best thing. Ever since the resulting stampede for fried chicken on Christmas Eve has made the company’s cash registers ring with cheer.

So yeah, some imported traditions might get lost in translation (and vice versa), but we’re excited about the rise in popularity of the Christmas market. Modeled on European Christmas markets, the trend has been driven by collaborations with organizations like the Goethe-Institut Japan (an organization funded by the German government), which is keen to introduce its native culture. Last year the first “Marché de Nöel de Strasbourg a Tokyo,” supported by a number of organizations including Air France and Tourism Alsace, brought a little piece of Strasbourg to Tokyo International Forum. Modeled on the Christmas market held in Strasbourg, Alsace, the event, according to Tokyo Walker, was attended by 580,000 people last year and this year it’s being held again from Dec. 10 to 25. The stalls gathered around a real Christmas tree are selling a variety of European food including fresh bread, cheeses, quiche and mulled wine. Also on sale are Christmas decorations and handicrafts from Alsace.

Nearby, at Hibiya Plaza, a rival market has set up shop this year. “Wien Christmas in Tokyo” is sponsored by the Austrian Embassy and Wien Products, among others, and aims to import the feeling of Vienna’s Christmas market to Hibiya. Again, the centerpiece is a genuine Christmas tree around which stalls offer similar fare to the Strasbourg market. They’ll also be a brass band playing classical music to give the market a traditional Viennese feel. The market will be open until Dec. 26.

Besides these markets, we’ve counted a further three being held in and around the Tokyo area: Roppongi Hills Christmas Market (supported by the Goethe Institute) is held on the roof top plaza 2F West Walk until Dec. 25, Tokyo Midtown Marche de Noel is held at B1 Galleria until Dec. 26 and Yokohama Red Brick Warehouse Christmas Market is on until Dec. 25.

While we agree that Col. Sanders bears a resemblance to Santa, for a genuine Christmasy experience, a glass of mulled wine and the scent of a real pine tree beats devouring a bucket of greasy KFC any day.

In a time of both misinformation and too much information, quality journalism is more crucial than ever.
By subscribing, you can help us get the story right.