Well, the stockings are hung by the chimney with care, and we’re all getting ready for a nice American-style Christmas in Japan. Being a relatively recent import from the West, Japan’s idea of Christmas is likely to be a little different from your country. While around 1.5% of Japanese are Christians who attend mass at local churches (there a dozen or so Catholic, Baptist and Mormon churches located in the cities around J-List, and even one affiliated with the Russian Orthodox Church), for most Japanese Christmas is a fun excuse to have a party with loud firecrackers, spoil children with presents from Toys “R” Us and maybe perhaps go on a date with that special someone. It’s common in the U.S. for people to lament how “commercial” Christmas has become, though this is not a new problem — it’s a theme found in the Charlie Brown Christmas Special which has been around since 1965. Sadly Japan is no exception to this trend, and shops are filled with so many plastic Christmas-themed products it can sometimes be hard for gaijin living here to get into the proper mood. One idea I’m fascinated with is whether it’s possible to quantify the cultural importance of a thing by how many related fanart images are posted to websites like Pixiv. If this measure is at all accurate, Christmas is very important to Japan, based on the thousands of cute images of anime characters dressed up as “Santa-san” that exist. If you want to see some of these pictures, follow the J-List Facebook, Tumblr or Twitter feeds!
One of the most famous images of Christmas in Japan is “Christmas cake,” a delicious cake that’s either handmade from scratch or ordered from a bakery to be picked up on December 24th. The custom got started in 1910 when confectionery company Fujiya — the ones who make those delicious Milky caramels — introduced the British tradition of Christmas cake to Japan, though the local version is usually a standard sponge cake with strawberries and a whipped cream-based icing. One big trend over the past few years has been the rise of convenience stores selling Christmas cakes featuring licensed characters like Madoka Magica, Pokemon and even Attack on Titan. Convenience stores have become a popular way for animation studios to reach new fans, and by creating limited products like Lawson’s Eva-themed Christmas cake that comes with a metal Spear of Longinus knife to cut your cake with, convenience store chains can bring a lot of customers into their stores.
You can’t have Christmas without a Christmas Cake.