Why Is KFC A Christmas Tradition In Japan?

Why Is KFC A Christmas Tradition In Japan

Want to know why is KFC a Christmas tradition in Japan? Read on to find out why Japanese people love KFC during Christmas.

Christmas is the time of the year when families come together, keeping aside all their differences and worries, to spend this blissful day full of love and joy.

The most popular customs that families across the world practice for Christmas are putting up Christmas trees, handing out gifts to one another, and celebrating the day by having delicious meals.

Although these traditions can differ depending on which part of the world you’re from, Christmas is undoubtedly one of the special occasions that are celebrated grandly. 

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Christmas in Japan is celebrated unlike anywhere else. Fast food restaurants are packed during the Christmas season in Japan and we’re particularly talking about KFC.

To learn the history, popularity, and significance of the KFC Christmas tradition in Japan make sure to read further below.

When it comes to crispy fried chicken the first name that comes to our mind is KFC. KFC is an abbreviation for Kentucky Fried Chicken which is an American fast-food restaurant that’s very well known for its signature fried chicken recipe that most restaurants around the world have attempted to replicate. 

KFC was founded in 1930 in Kentucky, USA by Colonel Sanders whose picture to this day remains as the logo of KFC.

It’s also one of the largest fast-food restaurant brands in the world and has over 22000 outlets across 150 countries. KFC was one of the earliest competitors to McDonald’s and introduced the crispy fried chicken meal as a major contender to hamburgers. 

Is KFC A Christmas Tradition In Japan
Source: Instagram

Starting from fried chicken, KFC has introduced a variety of meals to its menu like french fries, Mac and cheese, chicken burgers, wraps, coleslaw, desserts, and soft drinks.

Fried chicken from KFC alone has several variations like popcorn chicken, chicken tenders, the KFC chicken bucket, chicken drumsticks, etc.

KFC in Japan was initially opened in 1970 in Shibuya, Tokyo. The franchise rights of KFC Japan were acquired by Mitsubishi Corporation.

There are over 1000 KFC outlets in Japan which makes Japan the third country in the world to have the highest number of KFC outlets. Most of the sales made by KFC Japan are recorded to be takeouts, especially during special events like Christmas.

Why Is KFC A Christmas Tradition In Japan?

Why Is KFC A Popular Christmas Tradition In Japan?

Every Christmas Day in Japan is celebrated by families who feast on fried chicken and other meals offered by KFC.

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It’s almost considered a compulsory and significant tradition to take out meals from KFC for Christmas in Japan. But why is having a KFC meal on Christmas day so significant and popular in Japan?

japanese christmas traditions
Source: Instagram

The practice of buying meals from fast food restaurants in Japan began between the 40s and 50s. This was when Japan was recovering from the after-effects of the World Wars and when the American influence was profound in Japan.

Fast food chains and other Western cultural norms began emerging in Japan which shaped the Japanese culture and since then the Japanese people began accepting the new change.

This was when the idea of celebrating Christmas was introduced in Japan. Thanks to the marketing tactics utilized by KFC in Japan which was called ‘Kentucky For Christmas’ aided KFC outlets in Japan experienced a massive surge in sales during the Christmas season.

The completely new taste and flavors of Western fast food especially the crispy fried chicken captured the taste buds of the Japanese people.

Not to mention, how the marketing strategy ‘Kentucky For Christmas’ made the Japanese people believe that it’s a Western practice to buy KFC for Christmas.

How Did KFC Become A Christmas Tradition In Japan?

The marketing strategy ‘Kentucky For Christmas’ was introduced in 1974 by Takeshi Okawara who was the manager of the first KFC outlet in Japan.

According to KFC Japan, Takeshi Okawara attended a Christmas party in Japan dressed as Santa Claus and this captivated the attention of kids who loved the aspects of Christmas and Santa. 

This led Takeshi to come up with the strategy of popularizing KFC by promoting fried chicken in ‘party barrels’ for Christmas. Takeshi intended to promote the notion of feasting fried chicken on Christmas as a substitute for the American tradition of roasted turkey meals.

kfc christmas
Source: Instagram  

The slogan ‘Kentucky For Christmas’ is pronounced in Japanese as ‘Kurisumasu ni wa Kentakki’ which made the Japanese people believe that purchasing fried chicken from KFC was an American tradition.

Hence the Japanese people began taking out meals from KFC every Christmas. Since then this has been a widely followed tradition in every Japanese family and still continues to this day.

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According to Japan Today, KFC restaurants in Japan have earned over 6 billion Yen in 2017 during the Christmas weekend alone.

The highest number of fried chicken sales at KFC outlets in Japan usually occurs between the 23rd and 25th of Christmas and it’s also ordinary for people to pre-order fried chicken meals during the Christmas season.

If you happen to visit Japan during Christmas you can view how people stand in long queues just to get fried chicken at KFC.

KFC’s Christmas Marketing Strategies In Japan

To put it into simple terms, the reach of buying KFC for Christmas in Japan was nothing but a well-executed marketing strategy.

Kentucky For Christmas strategy which introduced the ‘Party Barrel’ meal in KFC Japan consists of a big bucket of fried chicken, coleslaw as a side dish, and a luscious cake for dessert. 

japanese christmas traditions
Source: Instagram

The origin of The Party Barrel meal was inspired by the American Christmas family dinner. This made Japanese people believe that Christmas must be celebrated with families and loved ones, thus most families in Japan began ordering the Party Barrel meals for Christmas.

In fact, eating with family isn’t a new tradition in Japan as it’s a practice that has been carried out for generations.

When it’s almost Christmas in Japan, KFC promotes its meal options for the year, and mind you the packaging of these meals is Christmas-themed which makes it even more delightful. 

In Christmas 2021, KFC in Japan offered the Party Barrel meal which included a ceramic Christmas Original Plate that had ‘Happy Christmas 2021’ written on it, 8 pieces of crispy fried chicken, a Minced Chicken Meat Lasagna, and a Chocolate Cake. The entire Christmas Party Barrel meal was priced at 4100 yen which was almost 36 USD.

How Can I Celebrate Christmas At KFC In Japan?

If you’re planning to travel to Japan for Christmas then it’s definitely a good idea. You can experience how Christmas feels like in a different country without a single worry of not having the vibes of Christmas Eve. And when you’re in Japan for Christmas, KFC is a must-have. 

kfc in japan menu
Source: Instagram

You’ll notice how busy KFC outlets in Japan get for Christmas hence if you’re considering taking out from KFC you must be aware of a few tips. Following these tips will ensure you have a smooth order experience at KFC Japan. 

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Initially make sure you pre-order your preferred KFC meals, advisably 2 or 3 days before Christmas Day. Failing to pre-order can make you stand in long queues in front of the KFC outlet which isn’t a good experience and you can’t guarantee that your preferred meals will be available due to high order volumes.

Furthermore, it’s best to takeout from KFC during Christmas rather than dining in because most families in Japan celebrate Christmas by having family dinners at home.

How Is Christmas Celebrated In Japan?

Although Japan is a secular country, the nation allows all of its citizens to practice any religion they prefer freely.

When taking into account the most practiced religions in Japan, the Shinto religion takes the first place with 69%, Buddhism accounts for 66% and Christianity makes up only 1.5%. 

christmas kfc japan
Source: Instagram

Despite only a small proportion of the Japanese population practicing Christianity, Christmas is one of the celebrated festivals in Japan although it’s not even an official holiday in the nation.

In fact, it’s not only the Christians who mark the day of Christmas but almost people of all faiths in Japan celebrate Christmas extravagantly. 

Thanks to American influence, right after World War 2, the tradition of celebrating Christmas has seeped its way into the Japanese culture.

Christmas Day isn’t seen as a religious occasion in Japan but rather as a day when families can get together to commemorate the special day by having delicious food and offering gifts to one another. It’s basically like the Japanese version of Thanksgiving Day.

However, unlike most Western countries Christmas is celebrated rather in a much more distinct way in Japan.

Instead of roasting a whole turkey, the Japanese people celebrate Christmas by taking out food from KFC, preferably fried chicken. This tradition of celebrating Christmas is called the ‘Kentucky Fried Christmas’ in Japan.

Why Is KFC A Christmas Tradition In Japan: FAQs

Why does Japan celebrate Christmas with KFC?

Christmas became a tradition in Japan after Takeshi Okawara who was the first manager of KFC Japan introduced the ‘Kentucky Fried Christmas’ promotion in 1974 in Japan which included a fried chicken meal known as the Party Barrel.

The promotion strategy was to convey that Christmas was celebrated in America with families feasting delicious meals. Since then the Japanese people have adopted the practice of taking out meals from KFC for Christmas.

What is the most popular meal on Christmas in Japan?

The most popular Christmas meal in Japan is fried chicken which is only bought from KFC by the Japanese people.

This is because KFC Japan promoted the practice of celebrating Christmas with fried chicken as a substitute for turkey which is the most popular Christmas meal in America. Nearly 4 million families in Japan celebrate Christmas by ordering fried chicken buckets from KFC.

What country eats KFC for Christmas?

Japan is a country where families pre-order or stand in queues to buy fried chicken meals from KFC for Christmas.

This trend began in 1974 when Takeshi Okawara launched the ‘Kentucky For Christmas’ promotion meal for Christmas in Japan which led to the people believing that Christmas is celebrated by having fried chicken meals with loved ones and families. Until now the Japanese people celebrate Christmas by taking out meals from KFC.

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