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​A Crispy Christmas Chronicle: Japan's Fascination with KFC for the Festive Season

​A Crispy Christmas Chronicle: Japan's Fascination with KFC for the Festive Season

Posted by Emily on 12th Nov 2023

Imagine a Japanese Christmas, where instead of the traditional roast turkey, families across the nation eagerly queue up for something entirely different – a hearty meal of KFC's fried chicken. This curious culinary tradition, as unique as it is delightful, has roots that delve deep into Japan's past and its relationship with Western culture.

Colonel Sanders in a Japanese Christmas

Once upon a Christmas in 1974, Takeshi Okawara, the then-manager of Japan's first KFC, had a dream – a vision of a "party barrel" that would provide a festive fried chicken experience. This dream didn't just transform Okawara's career (leading him to eventually become the CEO of KFC Japan); it sparked a nationwide yuletide tradition.

Fast forward to today, and the tradition is stronger than ever. Aiko, a resident of Osaka, shares her excitement: "Every Christmas, my family looks forward to our special meal from KFC. It's not just about the food; it's a celebration that brings us together." Aiko's story is echoed across Japan, where millions eagerly anticipate their festive bucket of the Colonel's secret recipe chicken.

The logistics behind this festive phenomenon are as impressive as the tradition itself. Yuko Nakajima, KFC Japan's chief marketing officer, explains, "Preparation for Christmas begins as early as July. It's a year-round endeavour, with our team meticulously planning to meet the overwhelming demand." During the peak season of December 23 to 25, KFC Japan witnessed its highest sales, with approximately 300,000 party barrels and 800,000 Christmas packs sold, making up a significant portion of their annual revenue.

KFC packaging on table in shopping centre

But why did fried chicken become synonymous with Christmas in Japan? The answer lies in a blend of cultural adaptation and clever marketing. In a country where Christmas was not a widely celebrated holiday, KFC filled a void with its festive buckets. "Our Christmas jingle has become synonymous with the holiday season," Nakajima adds, "signalling a time of joy and festivity."

However, this tradition is more than just a clever marketing campaign. It resonates with the Japanese penchant for communal dining and shared experiences. Kenji, a teacher from Tokyo, notes, "Sharing a KFC bucket with family and friends during Christmas fits perfectly with our cultural practices of eating together and enjoying shared meals."

Yet, as traditions evolve, so do tastes. While many, like Aiko and Kenji, continue to enjoy KFC's Christmas offerings, others explore different culinary delights, reflecting the dynamic nature of cultural traditions.

Colonel Sanders in a Japanese Christmas

As we marvel at Japan's unique Christmas dining tradition, let's not forget our own quirky customs, from decorating trees to pulling crackers. Perhaps what unites us all is the joy of shared traditions and the warmth of coming together.

What about you? Do you have a unique Christmas dining tradition or fond memories associated with festive foods? Share your stories in the comments below – we'd love to hear how you celebrate the holiday season! ????