Tokyobling's Blog

KFC Christmas in Kamakura

Posted in Advertising, Places, Shops by tokyobling on December 13, 2013

One of the things that often puzzles foreigners experiencing Christmas in Japan for the first time is the tradition to eat chicken at Christmas. Although a lot of people think of it as a rather old tradition it actually only started in the mid-seventies of the last century. Born as a marketing ploy by the advertising agency hired by Ketucky Fried Chicken, the original marketing campaign was launched on December 1st, 1974. Until then, Christmas had been a culinary blank for the Japanese. There was no particular food waiting to be associated with the event and the time was ripe for something to fill that blank. KFC was still fresh in Japan, having only been around since 1970 when the first restaurant opened in Nagoya (it closed soon, after about a year and the building it was located in was torn down in 2005). Japanese economy was growing rapidly and the people who had until then eaten almost only seafood, rice and vegetables found themselves with the money for the first time ever to introduce a whole new kind of food: chicken (burgers, beef and pork would come later). The slogan of the campaign was simple, “chicken for Christmas” and it got picked up big time, especially by the generation that had been born after war and were eager for a more international lifestyle. When something becomes big in Japan it really becomes big and from the start there were long lines to order your chicken. Standard practice was to make pre-orders a couple of months in advance and pick up on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day on the way home after work.

These days the tradition lives on more as nostalgia than as the hip thing to do. We have a generation that has grown up and started families of their own having never known a Christmas without chicken, so I do not think the tradition will die out. In the beginning it was associated with KFC and every restaurant in Japan had a special Santa outfit for the Colonel, including this one that I found in Kamakura City, the ancient capital city of Japan, south of Yokohama and Tokyo. These days almost all restaurants, mail order companies and convenience stores do the Christmas Chicken thing, so if the lines are too long at your local KFC you can always try the local convenience store.

Other things to do on Christmas if you are Japanese is to go on dates (in case you are still of dating age) or to eat strawberry and cream cake, if you are too young to date or too old to be bothered. Personally I do not celebrate Christmas so it will be just another day in the office for me!



7 Responses

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  1. Dina Farmer said, on December 13, 2013 at 6:27 am

    That is one thing I do miss about Japan. LOL Chicken on Christmas. So funny!!


    • tokyobling said, on December 16, 2013 at 8:35 am

      Haha… well that at least should be easy replicate in your new home in the US! (^-^)


  2. Cardinal Guzman said, on December 13, 2013 at 2:23 pm

    I had no idea that Japan was all about chicken for Yule (or Christmas like the Christians call it). I’m glad to say that we don’t eat take-out fast food for our holidays! 🙂 It’s quite interesting that Japan has ‘adopted’ a miniature version of Christmas and turned it into a chicken eating day.


    • tokyobling said, on December 16, 2013 at 8:36 am

      Yes, Japanese people love holidays and traditions, so they get to have all their own and pick whatever they like from abroad, a perfect solution! (^-^)


  3. Shelli@howsitgoingeh? said, on December 14, 2013 at 6:05 pm

    I always wondered about this – thanks for posting this! The Japanese really do love their KFC!!!


    • tokyobling said, on December 16, 2013 at 8:39 am

      Thank you for the kind comment! It is fun to see traditions being born in real time….!


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