Shawn DesVoignes, my business acquaintance, living in Kanazawa City, Japan, for the past six months (his total life in Japan is already 10 years), sent me a funny e-mail. He works for Yamato Shoyu-Miso Company, whose high quality shoyu and miso products are exported to USA.
His e-mail reads; “Japanese love Christmas. I went shopping yesterday, the Christmas Eve, and could not find any chicken at any food stores!”. Well, today cooking chicken either butchered one or a whole bird on the Christmas Eve seemed to have become an established culinary ritual in Japan. While searching on online more information about today’s Japanese Christmas meal, I found an interesting line which declares that “Kentucky fried chicken is the most popular Christmas meal in Japan”. I sent an e-mail to my nephew, Kazuharu, to ask if this is true. Kazuharu replied me with the result of the questionnaire conducted by kreo.jp in 2012 on what Japanese population did on Christmas Eve. 10,838 people across the country joined this survey.
Here is what people did on Christmas Eve.:
48.4% ate Christmas cake
22% ate Christmas dinner at home
26.1% gave Christmas present
12% decorated their house/room with Christmas tree, wreath, illumination
29.6% Did nothing
Among the people who enjoyed Christmas dinner, what they prepared/ate:
37.6% fried chicken! (Maybe Kentucky Fried Chicken started ‘Let’ eat fried chicken’ champaine.)
34.7% chicken legs (it does not specify how it was cooked)
16.2% roast chicken
6.0% chicken teriyaki
Now I know the mysterious disappearance of chicken from the food stores across Japan.
I was born and raised in Japan, where the majority population believes in Sintoism and Buddhism. So, Christmas is not a religious celebration. However, by the time I left my country for America in 1998 I remember that Christmas “thing” was already quite a big annual celebration. Department stores and mom-pap stores in the shopping districts across the country loudly play Christmas songs all day long from the beginning of December in order to attract shoppers. I have never heard so many jingle bells in my life in Japan. Here in New York City….I hear almost none of it. I remember that when Japanese spotted any foreigners on the street or in the subway station in Tokyo at the time of Christmas, no matter what religion these foreigners embrace, Japanese cheered them with a merry “Merry Christmas” shout. I am sure today this greetings are exchanged between the Japanese to some degree.
Some years ago at a photograph exhibition in Japan I saw old professional photos taken just after the World War II in Tokyo. Some of them depicted a huge Santa Clause and illuminating Christmas tree being displayed at Mitsukoshi department store, one of the most prestigious department store back then in the city. Christmas began as a commercial event. After the war the country was poor and the Japanese was looking for hope and growth. Christmas introduced by Americans, who rescued us and surpassed in every area from technology to humanity, definitely cheered up our spirit, thus we cherished it.
In Japan Christmas Day is a second thought. Christmas Eve is the main event. Maybe because, we treat New Years Eve with a special sprit before welcoming the grand New Year. Anyway, Happy Holidays and Happy New Year!