Christmas in Japan = KFC On the Table

VIDEO: Kentucky Fried Chicken markets their meals as a holiday tradition.

photo courtesy of ABC News/Japan

On my recent trip to Japan I was surprised and slightly puzzled to see Christmas decorations in shop windows, bakeries, hotel lobby’s and some restaurants. Christmas music, too, seeped quietly from everywhere that public music can seep without bothering others in Japan.

KFC’s popularity can be traced back to a highly successful marketing campaign that began nearly 40 years ago.

At the time, the Christmas holiday wasn’t as widely celebrated in Japan.

One of my colleagues explained that while Japan does not celebrate Christmas as a Christian holiday, it celebrates it in the spirit of gift-giving, and good times with family and friends. And eating Kentucky Fried Chicken for Christmas dinner.

What? KFC in Japan…for Christmas? Yes, indeed. Apparently “kentakkii,” as KFC is it’s popularly known began to market fried-chicken-for-Christmas in Japan in 1974. It caught on big time in Japan, a country that does not raise or sell turkeys, and where households do not own ovens large enough to cook a turkey. So, chicken – fried chicken – to the rescue as a holiday dinner treat.

My colleagues told me that they make reservations at KFC for their Christmas dinner.  “What, I exclaimed? You go to KFC on Christmas day?”  “No, they explained.” “The reservation is to be able to walk in an pick up your food at an appointed hour and avoid the sometimes 2+hr wait in line.” So sensible!

In fact, KFC fried chicken is so popular in Japan, the fast-food chain recommends customers place their Christmas orders two months in advance. KFC is proud to day that “Our holiday sales are five to ten times higher at Christmas than in other months. In Japan, Christmas equals KFC.”

image courtesy of KFC Co., Japan

Stories like this are what I love about our experiences surrounding tea, food and travel. These experiences and those that we meet along the way are gateways into conversations about their lives, their family and country customs and sometimes, yes, even holiday traditions.

Merry Christmas to all of our tea enthusiast customers around the world! May all of your tables be set with the foods that you hold dearest and most special at this magical time of year!

And may there be a very special cup of tea awaiting you after the meal.

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