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.

Kagoshima Japan Tea Fields

The Kagoshima region of Kyushu Island is stunningly beautiful. I am in Chiran, the premiere growing area of Kagoshima. Here, the tea fields lie flat and straight, from a high vantage point one can see small tea gardens of various sizes laid out in a grid pattern. The deep, rich color of the tea bushes is accentuated by a matte finish that the tea bushes have acquired from the final clipping that they have been given in October and from the deep green color stage that they are in this time of year.

The final clipping is not turned into tea but is done to simply trim the bushes and ready them for their upcoming rest period. Tea harvesting will begin again next year in April or May, depending on the location of the tea farm and how quickly the warm air and heat buildup in the soil stimulates the plants to send out new growth.

As in most regions of Japan, tea harvesting is carried out by machine clipping, and the Kagoshima region is no exception. Some small farmers with only 30 or so hectares of land ( approx.. 74 acres ) have invested in the ownership of a massive leaf cutting machine that they use to obtain their fresh leaf in four different plucking times throughout the spring and summer months from June thru August. For me, it is a completely different sight to see these machines out in the fields as compared to the hand-plucking that goes on in Chinese tea gardens, or in a high-mountain Taiwan tea garden where the land is seriously sloped and sometimes almost vertical.

Differences in the contours of the land and the various approaches to tea harvesting and production are just one part what makes tea so interesting. It did not take too many days of meeting these people and listening to their stories and tasting their teas for me to become a big fan. We are excited about the future prospect of having some of these teas in our shop and on our website.

Good Morning Mr. Volcano

This is a 6 AM photograph of Sakurajima from my room. Brooding clouds hover over the top of the volcano and present an onerous appearance. I can detect a little whiff of charred/burning smell in the air from outside on my balcony. It is windy and very chilly….and a dramatic wake-up scene!

According to someone on my team who grew up on the island where the volcano is located in the bay, this smell is always there and only a cause for worry when it intensifies.

The entire panorama of the bay is ringed with mountains as far on the horizon as I can see and it is very peaceful and serene in that early morning blue silhouette-light.

7 Am…the light is changing and the sky brightening.

Breakfast is calling and so are the tea fields…………