Christmas in Kansai

ByJustin Hanus
Nov 29, 2022

Christmas in Kansai

Not being a predominantly Christian country, Japan doesn’t celebrate Christmas with quite the same fervour as people in the US, Canada or Europe. For example, Christmas is not a public holiday in Japan. If you want time off work to spend with family or friends, you’ll have to book it off.

However, with a sizable expat community across its islands, Japan does get into the spirit somewhat and so it’s possible to enjoy the festive season there. In fact, festive activities stretch out across the month of December (although be warned, they typically end on the 25th). In the Kansai region, you can enjoy seasonal events and displays, and even a slap-up Christmas dinner or two. Here’s what to expect.

Christmas Illuminations

Winter light displays are one of the most popular seasonal treats across Japan. Residents are treated to free colourful illuminations in streets, parks, train stations, shopping centers and other public spaces. Sometimes there will also be one-off events although you’ll usually need to buy a ticket for these. Displays typically run throughout December but can start as early as late October and sometimes last until February. Top illuminations in Kansai include:

  • Osaka Festival of Lights – a series of coordinated displays across the city running from November 3, 2023 – January 31, 2024
  • Kobe Luminarie – an annual display near Motomachi Station to commemorate the victims of the 1995 earthquake (January 19-28, 2024)
  • Kyoto Station – a spectacular display adorning the 171 steps up to the station (November 1 – December 25, 2023)
  • Rose & Berry Tawada – the display in this beautiful garden park in Shiga is the largest nature illumination in Kansai (October 7, 2023 – February 12, 2024)

Christmas Markets and Events

An imported Christmas tradition gaining traction in Japan in recent years is the European-style festive market. These German and Scandinavian markets serve up a healthy dose of seasonal cheer, selling Christmas gifts along with food and drink such as smoked sausages, pickled herring, Christmas cake and mulled wine from stalls surrounded by Christmas lights and decorations. You can also expect live music from oompah bands and even Christmas choirs. Markets for Kansai in 2023 include:

If you fancy something to entertain the kids, Universal Studios in Osaka runs their NO LIMIT! Christmas party season of fun events for children from November until early January.

Christmas Dining

Of course, Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas without the traditional roast feast. Expats fancying a festive meal out with family or friends can find a few restaurants and cafes serving up seasonal menus. You won’t find the range of options you’d get in many western countries but, on the other hand, restaurants in Japan are usually open on Christmas Day so you can dine out if you wish. Places with festive menu offerings include:

  • Intercontinental Osaka – a hotel chain with a full menu and buffet options for both Christmas and New Year, starting at 6,000 yen per person
  • Marcus Square Kobe – located in the Hotel Crown Palais, this location has an evening menu from December 22-25 with choices including Kobe beef, sea bream and lobster
  • Blarney Stone Osaka – a delightful Irish pub offering a roast with all the trimmings on December 24-25 from around 2,500 yen per person
  • KFC – very popular at Christmas time in Japan, keep your eye out for the festive meal boxes and special deals

Christmas Supplies

You can purchase your own supplies if you want to create your own Christmas atmosphere at home. The Meat Guy is the go-to purveyor for all festive meats and trimmings. Also check out Horizon Farms for meats, plant-based alternatives, vegetables and fruit. For other supplies such as Christmas trees, decorations and accessories, visit Costco or Shimo Jima.

苗木 惇, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

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