Like Japanese New Year celebrations, Christmas in Japan is done in a very unique way. Well over 80% of Japanese engage in various Shinto Buddhist practices, but aren’t exactly religious.

Hello Kitty Christmas Tree in Japan
DMC-LX3 (5.1mm, f/2, 1/30 sec, ISO100)
A huge Hello Kitty Christmas Tree spotted at a mall in Shizuoka Prefecture.

In the lead up to Christmas, malls and even convenience stores are decorated with typical holiday trimmings: trees, tinsel and lights. In late November one year during a weekend trip to Shizuoka, I spotted this huge Hello Kitty Christmas tree at a mall near the Tomei Expressway.

Christmas day is not a public holiday in Japan, and the Japanese don’t do the traditional western gift giving around the Christmas tree. Their biggest tradition around this time is enjoying a Christmas cake. But Japan’s beloved Christmas cake isn’t about Christmas at all.

The most important holidays in Japan are that of bringing in the New Year. Instead of big New Year countdowns, many visit shrines at midnight and begin the year a new.