Takako Tomura’s Christmas party this week has all the festive trimmings. Children decorate a pine tree with tinsel and hand-manufactured decorations, as older people toast mulled wine and every person exchanges presents.
Then the family members sit down to get pleasure from the classic Japanese Xmas meal — mounds of Kentucky Fried Chicken.
As with other foreign celebrations, this kind of as Halloween and Valentine’s Day, Japan has embraced Xmas with gusto — while the religious factors are mostly disregarded in a nation where only 1% of the population is Christian.
Alternatively, Christmas Eve is regarded a person of the most romantic times of the year in Japan, and substantial-stop dining places and motels are usually booked months in progress. And whilst coronavirus has place a damper on a intimate Xmas Eve this 12 months, the windows of office shops are continue to comprehensive of presents for important some others.
Quite a few Japanese kids think in Santa Claus, and will obtain a present beneath their Xmas tree, in spite of the lack of chimneys in Japan. Then they have to go to school, as December 25 is continue to a faculty day.
Christmas — lost in translation
All these traditions are immediate imports from the West, though there are without doubt some dropped-in translation moments, such as the Tokyo department shop that displayed a Santa Claus nailed to a cross in its window.
Nonetheless, the Japanese Christmas tradition of ordering KFC for the vacation meal is a significantly curious tailor made for Westerners, who may well balk at the thought of feasting with quick-meals chicken.
“We generally get KFC at Christmas for the reason that that is what my mother and father utilised to do when I was younger,” stated Tomura, a 40-yr-outdated housewife from Yokohama.
“It was usually a little bit of a address when I was younger as we didn’t go out to restaurants so typically back again then. And KFC seemed overseas and exotic,” she extra.
Fifty decades of KFC in Japan
The story behind KFC’s near monopoly on the speedy-foods Xmas feast dates back to 1970, in accordance to the firm. When the first KFC outlet in Japan opened its doorways, it was well-known with foreigners who had not obtained a flavor for Japanese delicacies.
The supervisor of the restaurant, Takeshi Okawara, overheard some foreigners bemoaning the reality that it was not possible to get turkey in Japan to rejoice Christmas. Okawara came up with the notion of a “get together barrel” that could be offered in the operate-up to Xmas, with rooster serving as the substitute for the regular turkey.
By 1974, the company’s Xmas marketing campaign had absent nationwide beneath the slogan “Kentucky for Xmas.”
It turned a nationwide phenomenon, in component mainly because the Japanese have been nonetheless somewhat not sure about the protocols encompassing this international vacation, but they knew all about KFC.
Put together with a intelligent advertising campaign, and Colonel Sanders’ recipe for fried rooster is now synonymous with a festive Japanese Xmas.
The colonel himself will get into the spirit of items, with the lifetime-sizing statues that are outdoors every retailer in the country dressed in a Father Christmas costume.
Okawara’s dazzling thought was also a hit with the firm and he promptly rose through the KFC ranks, serving as president of KFC Japan from 1984 to 2002.
The custom was started off in the 1970s when Westerners could not come across a appropriate Xmas meal
“I bear in mind my father bringing a ‘party barrel’ residence when I was a teen in the early 1970s and imagining how diverse and exciting it was,” stated Tomoko Ooko, 67, a housewife from Saitama Prefecture, north of Tokyo.
“Even now, KFC dining establishments can be located wherever in Japan, but I in no way try to eat there and my household only orders acquire-out at Xmas,” she said.
“It has turn into a custom in our home now, even while I have heard that they do not eat KFC in other nations around the world for Xmas. I was shocked when I listened to that.”
Cornering the Xmas dinner market
KFC is celebrating 50 decades in Japan this yr and has considerably expanded its Xmas offerings in excess of the a long time.
The “Barrels” have evolved into specially developed boxes with chicken, wine and cake that are adequate to feed an entire family members.
KFC launched a particular Xmas menu readily available from December 19 for seven times, with a Get together Barrel costing practically €40 ($49), which include 8 parts of chicken, a shrimp gratin, tiramisu cake and 2020 Xmas plate.
About 10 several years in the past, McDonald’s Japan attempted to just take a bite out of KFC’s Xmas market place with a equivalent campaign intended to woo quickly-meals lovers. Even however McDonalds has extra stores throughout the state, Xmas diners mainly stayed faithful to KFC and a 50-year-outdated custom.