• Kyodo

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People in Japan are embracing a different way of celebrating Christmas this year, with more opting to stay at home and order high-end dinners amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Instead of dining out at upscale restaurants, people can now enjoy fancy cuisine at home. Sales of cakes are also up and there is demand for toys that offer family entertainment.

Pan-fried lobster and Japanese wagyu steak garnished with foie gras and truffles are being packed in plastic containers this year by Kihachi, a restaurant in Tokyo that specializes in French cuisine.

Its Christmas season menu, which it began offering on Dec. 7, has been modified for delivery to ensure sauces are separated from dishes so that the food can be heated in customers’ kitchens.

Kihachi has seen reservations drop amid rising numbers of COVID-19 cases, with many people avoiding crowded and poorly ventilated places.

Having reduced its seating to comply with guidelines, the restaurant says its delivery service has been doing better than expected, with manager Kanae Ishihara hoping people will “enjoy the restaurant’s food to make up for staying at home.”

A survey on ways to spend Christmas, conducted by Cross Marketing Inc. earlier this month on around 1,100 men and women in their 20s through 60s, showed that “having a rather fancy meal at home” ranked first at 24%, followed by “having a party at home only with family” at 20%.

Cake sales have also risen, as people treat themselves to ward off the coronavirus blues.

At the Nihombashi Mitsukoshi department store in central Tokyo, sales of cream cakes have increased 1.5 times from a year earlier, while Ginza Cozy Corner Co., which has stores mostly in Tokyo and surrounding areas, said cake orders were up 20% from the year before.

The pandemic has also boosted demand for pizzas. Pizza Hut Japan Ltd., which oversees around 420 stores in Japan, said orders placed on the three weekdays leading up to Christmas Day have been much higher this year and that it has increased employees for that day in anticipation of heightened demand.

Consumers have also increasingly turned to goods that can be enjoyed by the entire family, with Toys”R”Us-Japan Ltd. saying board and party games have become more popular this year.

A company official said the strong preference for staying at home and the cancellation of many Christmas events have resulted in toys being bought for presents.

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