Christmastime in Tokyo

Last Friday, my son and I arrived in Tokyo for business trips. He has a job interview for a permanent position here in Tokyo, and I needed to meet with my immigration representative about my visa application for the 100 SUMMITS project, which I’m hoping to start in early May of 2018. (I originally planned to start even earlier, but now I’ll need to finish my cancer treatment before I move.) 

We spent Saturday shopping for business suits (for my son) in Akihabara:

And Saturday night, I had the chance to commence my exploration of Christmas culture here in Tokyo.

Religiously, most Japanese people identify as agnostic/athiest, Buddhist, or practitioners of Shintō (if not more than one of the above). However, from a cultural perspective Japanese people love holidays, and embrace the chance to celebrate, shop, eat well, and exchange fun gifts.

A philosophy I can certainly get behind.


For this reason, Tokyo features many Christmas celebrations. Gorgeous light displays cover the city every night, and Christmas carols play in every store.

Hangings – like the one above, at Tokyo’s Skytree Shopping Center – boldly display both Christian and secular holiday images (all which are taken in the spirit of the season, rather than as attempts to proselytize, since Christmas is seen primarily as a secular holiday in Japan). 

Christmas trees, brightly colored packages, and elaborate displays abound. I love this four-story twinkling tree in the escalator lobby of the Solamachi Center:

Several locations around the city offer “Christmas Markets” – either recreations of Bavarian markets (complete with mulled wine, soft pretzels, and German wurst) or Japanese-style markets infused with Christmas spirit.

I’m hoping to visit as many of the markets as possible during my stay (I’m here until Christmas afternoon) and share the joys of the season here on the blog and on my social media feeds. I hope you’ll take them in the spirit of the season, and enjoy them as a celebration of the Japanese take on “Christmas culture” regardless of your personal observances or beliefs. Life is far too short to under-appreciate beauty in any form, or to pass over a chance to celebrate with music, gifts, and light.

Do you enjoy light displays in the winter? If so, what’s the best you’ve ever seen?