How to spend Christmas and New Year’s in Japan during the pandemic

How to spend Christmas in Japan during the pandemic

If you’re like me, you’re a foreigner stuck in Japan, unable to visit their home country. I spend the holiday season back home at least once every two years, and this year it would have been time to go. It’s been one and a half years since I last saw my family and there is no sign that I will be able to go back home hassle-free in the near future.

OK, so you’re stuck in Japan, with no family in the country and with your best friends back home. Don’t fret, there are plenty of things you can do and, while they’re not a perfect substitute, they’re great in their own way. Today we’re going to look at what to do during Christmas.

You may have noticed that the holiday is celebrated quite differently to how we do in many other countries. Rather than gathering with family members for a large dinner, Christmas is a time when couples go on a date and eat cake. It’s not the same, but if you have someone to go on a date with, it’s worth a try. Just make sure you book your cake in advance, either at a bakery or a convenience store. It’s at least a good way to avoid large super spreading events!

Fried chicken and particularly KFC are also tradition, though that’s my least favorite part of Japanese Christmas. If you’re feeling homesick, fast food might not be the best solution. Better, you could cook at home. It’s a good time to try out new recipes and perhaps you could invite a few people over. Or perhaps video call your family, and enjoy a Christmas breakfast or lunch while they have dinner. Traditional Christmas foods are hard to find in Japan, though there are some places like Costco that do have quite a lot of Christmassy things on offer.

There’s also plenty of Christmas markets in Japan, all great places to feel the Christmas spirit. Just be careful to social distance. Of the ones I’ve been to, I’d recommend the ones in Hibiya, Yokohama, and Hakodate. They tend to imitate German Christmas markets, I’d definitely try the mulled wine and the mussels. This would also be a great time to finally get a Christmas tree and some decoration at home, I you don’t have any yet. They’re not hard to come by and you can find some cheap plastic trees in places like Don Quixote.

If you want to spend a white Christmas (and New Year’s), why not go somewhere where you’re guaranteed to see snow? The northern are of Japan is all great for this, and I really enjoyed the aforementioned Christmas market in Hakodate with the settled and falling snow.

Next time we’ll look at ways to spend the New Year. Stay tuned!

How to spend New Year’s in Japan during the pandemic

Last time we looked at some ways people from overseas can spend Christmas in Japan when they’re stuck here, like me. If you’re missing Christmas at home, chances are that the same is true for New Year’s, so here are some ideas.

There are fewer global traditions New Year’s traditions than there are Christmas ones. In Spain people eat 12 grapes with the midnight clock strokes. In Denmark they throw old plates and glasses against the door. There are too many to list and I don’t think that I could do them justice. But there is one thing that most countries have in common, and that is doing a countdown and celebrating the moment the New Year arrives, perhaps by drinking with friends or family.

New Year’s is a very quiet event a in Japan compared to other countries. Many people go to bed before midnight and just want to relax. This time of the year is one of the few semi-long holidays Japanese people get, after all. If you’re OK having a quieter New Year’s, some of the Japanese traditions you can try out include going to a shrine (just know it’s going to be very crowded) and seeing the first sunset.

If you want to have a more celebratory time, this is the only day of the year when trains run 24 hours, at least in the Tokyo area. Even though it’s easier than ever for people to spend the night out, you will see nothing like the large crowds on the street you would normally see in major cities around the world, even in a normal year, making it ideal during the pandemic. If you find a cozy place that closes late, you can do a countdown with some friends and have a few drinks. It’s easy to find countdown websites, so that shouldn’t be a problem. This could also a great time to video call family and friends, as the time difference means they might have the time to spare. It’s 4pm when I call home.

Being stuck and unable to visit our families, this is a great time to try new things and enjoy the holidays in a different way. However you decide to spend your holidays, I hope you have a great time. And if you don’t, there’s always next year!

Hi, I’m Sergio.
I’m from Spain, lived in the UK for seven years and came to Japan in 2012.
I majored in journalism in London and have been teaching English in Tokyo.
I like traveling, cycling, photography, movies, and spending time with friends.
I wrote articles about life in Japan as a foreigner and anything that I might find interesting.
My email is ” “, by all means contact me about anything!


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