Why Does Japan Eat KFC At Christmas?

KFC in Japan
KFC in Japan | © whologwhy, Flickr
Alicia Joy

Tokyo Writer

Thanks to some clever marketing back in the 1970s, Christmas in Japan has become synonymous with a big bucket of Kentucky Fried Chicken. The American fast food chain has celebrated its busiest time of year around the December holiday for 42 years and counting. Check out the history behind this cultural phenomenon.

Kentucky For Christmas

Japan’s Christmas KFC tradition began in 1974, when the company launched a new holiday marketing campaign. It’s thought that it was inspired by the Western Christmas tradition of a turkey dinner. Back then and still today, turkey is virtually impossible to find in Japan. So when Japan’s foreign Christian population couldn’t get their hands on any come December, they settled on the familiar fried chicken brand instead – the next best thing to turkey. Japan’s KFC marketing team saw this as an ideal opportunity to launch a Christmas campaign targeted at locals and foreigners alike, and the slogan ‘kurisumasu ni wa kentakkii!’ or ‘Kentucky for Christmas!’ was born.

Colonel Sanders as Santa in Nagoya, Japan

Christmas in Japan

Christmas in Japan

KFC and Christmas Today

Kentucky Fried Chicken in Japan still reports record earnings at Christmastime each year. With wait times as long as two hours, all available employees come out to help, including top-level executives and typically behind-the-scenes staff. The restaurant is so popular at this time of year that some dinner specials can only be ordered in advance. A ‘Kentucky Christmas 2016’ dinner, complete with cake and salad, will set you back around 5,000 yen or 50 USD.

KFC in Akihabara, Tokyo

Kentucky = Christmas

There are a few explanations for KFC’s widespread, lasting popularity around Christmas in Japan. The first is the simplicity of the concept. Eating chicken at Christmas – especially now that it’s been cemented as a cultural tradition in Japan – is something that could potentially never go out of style. The company’s catchy Christmas slogan doesn’t hurt, either. Kurisumasu ni wa kentakkii rolls off the tongue a lot easier than kurisumasu ni wa makudonarudo for McDonald’s.


Colonel Santa

Another lucky coincidence is the Kentucky Fried Chicken mascot’s physical similarities with Santa Claus. Santa makes appearances in Japan through pop culture and media, and thanks to the likeness of the two figures, many Japanese children confuse the two. The company further encourages this by dressing up their Colonel Sanders statues with festive red-and-white outfits each time the holiday rolls around.

Colonel Sanders as Santa Claus
landscape with balloons floating in the air


Connect with like-minded people on our premium trips curated by local insiders and with care for the world

Since you are here, we would like to share our vision for the future of travel - and the direction Culture Trip is moving in.

Culture Trip launched in 2011 with a simple yet passionate mission: to inspire people to go beyond their boundaries and experience what makes a place, its people and its culture special and meaningful — and this is still in our DNA today. We are proud that, for more than a decade, millions like you have trusted our award-winning recommendations by people who deeply understand what makes certain places and communities so special.

Increasingly we believe the world needs more meaningful, real-life connections between curious travellers keen to explore the world in a more responsible way. That is why we have intensively curated a collection of premium small-group trips as an invitation to meet and connect with new, like-minded people for once-in-a-lifetime experiences in three categories: Culture Trips, Rail Trips and Private Trips. Our Trips are suitable for both solo travelers, couples and friends who want to explore the world together.

Culture Trips are deeply immersive 5 to 16 days itineraries, that combine authentic local experiences, exciting activities and 4-5* accommodation to look forward to at the end of each day. Our Rail Trips are our most planet-friendly itineraries that invite you to take the scenic route, relax whilst getting under the skin of a destination. Our Private Trips are fully tailored itineraries, curated by our Travel Experts specifically for you, your friends or your family.

We know that many of you worry about the environmental impact of travel and are looking for ways of expanding horizons in ways that do minimal harm - and may even bring benefits. We are committed to go as far as possible in curating our trips with care for the planet. That is why all of our trips are flightless in destination, fully carbon offset - and we have ambitious plans to be net zero in the very near future.

Winter Sale Offers on Our Trips

Incredible Savings

Edit article