Vote 2020 graphic
Everything you need to know about and expect during
the most important election of our lifetimes

Why KFC Is Christmas Dinner In Japan

[Image: Brian Ashcraft | Kotaku]
[Image: Brian Ashcraft | Kotaku]

Every year across Japan, people line up at Kentucky Fried Chicken joints to place their orders for Christmas dinner.

Advertisement

The yearly ad campaigns and meal ordering have made KFC part of Japan’s holiday season.

Forms to fill out and reserve your meal. [Image: Brian Ashcraft | Kotaku]
Forms to fill out and reserve your meal. [Image: Brian Ashcraft | Kotaku]
Advertisement

This Twitter user writes, “If we’re talking Japanese Christmas, it’s gotta be KFC!” Of course, not everyone eats KFC at Christmas in Japan (not everyone celebrates Christmas!), but the fast food chain has become inseparable from the day.

Kentucky Fried Chicken has been in Japan still the 1970s, and people in Japan love its chicken. But why is there this connection between KFC and Christmas? In many countries, Christmas evokes images of a home-cooked meal—not fast food! But Christmas, while celebrated, is not a national holiday in Japan.

Advertisement

According to one explanation, the reason is that foreign tourists in Japan during Christmas couldn’t find turkey, so they went to KFC. I’m not so sure about that, because roast beef, another popular Christmas meal, is easily found.

The official explanation from KFC is that a Christian kindergarten in Japan wanted to order KFC for its kiddy Christmas party. The school reportedly asked the KFC shop manager to dress up as Santa Claus for the party. He agreed, appearing at the party in full Santa gear, saying, “Merry Christmas,” to the children’s delight. According to KFC, gradually, more and more schools ordered KFC for their holiday parties, and in 1974, KFC held its first special Christmas meal campaign. Decades later, KFC’s Christmas has become an annual mainstay, with people growing up eating the fried chicken during the holidays and naturally associating it with Christmas.

Advertisement
In Japan, KFC fried chicken is made from 100 percent Japanese birds. [Image: Brian Ashcraft | Kotaku]
In Japan, KFC fried chicken is made from 100 percent Japanese birds. [Image: Brian Ashcraft | Kotaku]

And this year, like every year, expect lines.

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement

This article was originally published on December 22, 2017.

Originally from Texas, Ashcraft has called Osaka home since 2001. He has authored six books, including most recently, The Japanese Sake Bible.

Share This Story

Get our newsletter

DISCUSSION

Wait, roast beef is popular on Christmas, and it’s common in Japan? TIL.

Regardless, I thought KFC became big on Christmas because having full size ovens isn’t common in Japan. Buying fried chicken from a Western company is the closest thing most people in Japan have to cooking a turkey in an oven.