One of the more memorable experiences in travelling with my husband and two children to Japan every year has been the joy of spending a magic day of Christmas together – in a winter Japanese wonderland!
With less than one percent of the population Christian, one would wonder why the Japanese have adopted this festival. However the tinsel and trappings is a major drawcard for local and travellers alike as elaborate illuminations, even more kawaii characters and shopping! In fact we believe it is an opportune time to visit and take advantage of the special adoption of this celebration.
You will be surprised and delighted as the city lights up to create a wonderland for western visitor who have escaped the rush back at home. Despite it being winter, there are mild conditions and beautiful clear and mild days which makes Japan a great time to visit, without the crowds. While some illuminations are now massive events to which hundreds of thousands of people will scramble for a look each year, you’re just as likely to stumble across smaller, yet just as beautiful displays in your local area. In fact, many main streets and stations join in the festivities too.
While not officially a public holiday, you and your family can enjoy weekday rates and sensational Christmas turkey dinner at most hotels, who pride themselves in embracing this day in all the tinsel and tassel of the season. Without the crowds!
For young children, it is the time to receive presents from “Hotei-osho”, a Buddhist monk who is seen as the Japanese equivalent of Santa Claus. Hoteiosho is believed to leave presents in each house for the children. It is said that this benevolent monk has eyes in the back of his head, so children try to behave like he is nearby.
On Christmas Eve the children carry out special programs that go on for hours and consist of song, recitation and drama performances which make it a special experience for a westerner to behold. The festivities begin in November with shopping malls and department stores all competing for the best decorations and illuminations with carols charming your way to shopping specials that are on offer. Plan Japan advises to embrace the commercial trappings and make the most of the glittering wonderland, as Japan puts on quite a show.
And if travelling alone? Christmas in Japan is actually most comparable to Valentines day in the west. The occasion holds a special meaning for young people, especially women and teenagers. For couples in Japan, the Christmas Eve evening is the time to spend quality hours with their special someone.
Like Valentine’s Day it is an occasion when men express their love to the women they want in their lives. This makes it a special time for anyone in Japan, where romance and families can be experienced to the joy of the greeting ‘Meri Kurisumasu’ chimed in abundance with Christmas carols, everywhere.
Allow me to guide you on how to approach the magic of celebrating Christmas in a Japanese winter wonderland.