Fried Chicken & Christmas Cake
For the ultimate experience in misinformed Christmas feasts, nothing tops the Japanese holiday tradition of KFC. Yes, you read that correctly. Kentucky Fried Chicken, followed by a traditional western-style Christmas cake, is the standard Christmas dinner in Japan. Although barely two percent of the Japanese population is Christian, virtually the entire country has embraced the commercial aspects of Christmas. There are parties, exchanges of gifts, and the consumption of copious amounts of the colonel’s best.
How did this tradition get started? KFC opened its first franchises in Japan in the early 1970s. According to legend, a Christian missionary school was having difficulty acquiring a turkey for their holiday dinner. In desperation, they placed a large order from the KFC that had recently opened nearby. An employee suggested that they use this event as a hook to bring in new customers. Five years and a massive marketing campaign later, virtually everyone in Japan was eating KFC on Christmas Eve. Christmas week now accounts for nearly a quarter of KFC’s annual receipts in Japan. God bless us, everyone.
Now on the more reasonable side is the Japanese Christmas cake. This tradition actually dates back more than a century. It was begun in 1910 by one Fujii, a baker and founder of the Fujiya company, who began making holiday fruit cakes for sale to western expats. By the 1920s the idea of the Christmas cake had begun to catch on to the general populace, especially in Tokyo. Although Japanese Christmas cakes now come in a wide variety, virtually no house in Japan is without at least one during the holiday week.
So there you have it: a fried chicken dinner from KFC, and a traditional cake from Fujiya. Both are available all over Japan. However, lines for KFC can be daunting on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. Meals are sometimes ordered up to two months in advance; this is not an exaggeration. As of this writing it could not be identified which KFC was the one which originated the tradition. But if you’re in Japan during Christmas, pick any one and go nuts. Web: www.kfc.co.jp (official website of KFC in Japan)