Christmas in Japan is unlike any Christmas you might have experienced growing up in the West. Japanese people, while tolerant of all religions, are predominately Shinto or Buddhist in their beliefs and Christians make up only 1-2% of the country’s entire population.
That said, the Japanese love to celebrate and, while December 25th remains a work day in the Japanese calendar, many people mark the occasion by buying a ‘Christmas cake’ (often an iced, white, creamy affair decorated with strawberries). They also decorate their homes, give presents or even go on special dates with loved ones.
If you are looking to recreate some of the atmosphere of Christmas while you visit Japan you can find Christmas trees and decorations in some large retail stores and shopping malls. There are also several places throughout Tokyo that celebrate the winter season with Christmas cheer and illuminations, these can be found in any of Tokyo’s major commercial districts.
The New Year holidays are the most anticipated and celebrated in Japan and towards the end of the year you are likely to encounter many groups celebrating with ‘bonenkai’ (forget the old year) parties. You can expect to see many happy (and intoxicated!) locals during this time.