Thursday, December 25, 2014

Merry KFC: KFChristmas in Japan

Merry KFChristmas!

It's Christmas in Japan. In Japan, Christmas is not a holiday. So get to work!

In Japan, we don't really celebrate Christmas like you do in the west. People here just use Christmas as another excuse to shop, drink and eat chicken.

In Japan, less than 1% of the entire population is Christian, so Christmas is not really a religious holiday here. 

The Japanese, for the most part aren't very religious, actually. Oh, they have religion and religious ceremonies; they just don't seem to follow any particular religion... I can't exactly say what religion the Japanese are. Most Japanese can't even tell you what religion they are; they will claim they are Buddhists, but they have marriages at Christian churches or Shinto shrines. 

Approximately 80 percent of Japanese people get married in a Shinto or Christian ceremony. About 90 percent hold Buddhist services for a funeral ceremony. For them, Shintoism plays the role of governing the joyous side of life and Buddhism resides over past life of the family. Christianity is fun and they become Christians (sort of) for one day at Christmas just long enough to buy presents and eat at Kentucky Fried Chicken.

Which, eating KFC at Christmas is, as we all know, an integral part of Christian Doctrine concerning Christmas.

Well, at least in Japan it is.

That's right. In Japan, eating KFC at Christmas is an ages-old tradition (OK, well, the "ages old" part isn't exactly true...) But the eating KFC part at Christmas in Japan certainly is. Don't believe me? Well, maybe you'll believe the Smithsonian:

Christmas isn’t a national holiday in Japan—only one percent of the Japanese population is estimated to be Christian—yet a bucket of “Christmas Chicken” (the next best thing to turkey—a meat you can’t find anywhere in Japan) is the go-to meal on the big day. And it’s all thanks to the insanely successful “Kurisumasu ni wa kentakkii!” (Kentucky for Christmas!) marketing campaign in 1974. 

When a group of foreigners couldn’t find turkey on Christmas day and opted for fried chicken instead, the company saw this as a prime commercial opportunity and launched its first Christmas meal that year: Chicken and wine for ¥2,920 yen ($10)—pretty pricey for the mid-seventies. Today the christmas chicken dinner (which now boasts cake and champagne) goes for about ¥3,336 yen ($40). And the people come in droves. 

Many order their boxes of ”finger lickin’” holiday cheer months in advance to avoid the lines—some as long as two hours. 

Today, in 2014, it's not true that you can't buy turkey in Japan anymore. You can; you just need to live in a big city like Tokyo or Osaka; near foreigners where they have an international supermarket. 

There, you can find turkeys.... I mean turkeys as in "birds," not flaky foreigners.

But, from my experience, most Japanese don't really like the smell or taste of turkey. At least, not in the 20 or more times I've invited them over to my house for roasted turkey.... And I think I do know how to roast one the correct way: I was taught by a former chef from a famous French Restaurant in New Orleans on how to roast a turkey....

Anyway, in Japan, people do two things at Christmas; one is they eat chicken. And the other one is they go out to dinner with their boyfriend or girlfriend; staying home to eat with family is unheard of. 

At my house, we always eat at home and have a family party and invite a few friends over; usually folks who are away from home and have no family to spend time with. 

This year's Thanksgiving Turkey, er, I mean Chicken.

Since turkey is expensive, a pain in the ass to prepare, and I have to drive an hour back and forth just to get one; we stopped with the turkey last year and started to eat chicken at my house too.

It seems though, in Japan, for everybody else, chicken is and always will be an integral part of the Christmas dinner scene. 

For these 30+ years I've lived in Japan, KFC has dominated. But, recently I have been noticing other companies are starting to make an effort at getting into the Japanese Christmas Chicken pie. On the train the other day, I saw some disgusting looking Christmas chicken being peddled by Family Mart, a major convenience store chain.

If you thought KFC was bad, then you haven't lived until you've brutalized your taste buds with convenience store fried chicken. Yeech!

Seriously. Look at that chicken. It looks like that "Shake N Bake" crap I hated as a kid.  
And just what kind of bizarre "culinary" concoction are those two rectangular objects laying on the plate at the left of the black bucket?... Fried plastics? 

But, the good news is that, in Japan, finally, whole roasted chicken made by mom (or dad) at home have finally started to become popular. I went to the big "OK Store" yesterday (kind of like a Ralph's grocery store in the USA) and saw rows of whole chickens for roasting. I asked the clerk about it as I had never seen them in any year previously (usually, on any given day, they only have one whole chicken for sale), and he told me that they had them until today, December 25th. How nice!

Whole chicken in a rack at OK Store

Finally people can have a Christmas dinner at home... That is, if they have an oven. Which many Japanese homes do not; definitely old apartments don't.

It's weird that the KFC colonel is responsible for single handedly getting the Japanese to eat chicken at Christmas... That's great, I suppose. It's even better that this tradition has indirectly lead to the Japanese people starting to stay home on Christmas to have dinner with the family.

Thanks KFC.... For the Christmas chicken in Japan tradition...

Merry Christmas to everyone else!

May all your dreams come true in 2015! God bless!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Xmas in...
Japan: shop, drink, and eat chicken.
US:      shop, drink and eat.