More Than 3 Million Families In Japan Will Eat KFC For Christmas

by : Julia Banim on : 24 Dec 2019 13:44

I’m a sucker for a Christmas dinner, and begin licking my lips in anticipation around the same time I scrub away my Halloween party make-up.

Roast potatoes crisped in goose fat, buttery parsnips and – of course – the main event, the succulent turkey; filling the house with the unmistakable aroma of childhood Christmases spent in a state of almost frantic excitement. I even love a good, boozy spoonful of the ever divisive Christmas pudding.


However, I’m aware my obsession over a traditional festive feast isn’t shared by everyone, and you absolutely shouldn’t shudder through mouthfuls of sprouts and cranberry sauce if you would sooner munch your way through a string of tinsel.

KFC JapanPiqsels

If the thought of a glistening bowl of pigs in blankets makes you want to hide behind your parents’ Christmas tree, then why not look elsewhere for inspiration for the most important meal of the year?

Indeed, over the past few decades a tasty Yuletide trend has emerged in Japan which will no doubt delight those who don’t want to spend their Christmas morning basting away in the kitchen.


Ever since the launch of KFC’s ‘Kurisumasu ni wa Kentakkii!’ campaign in 1974 (which translates as ‘Kentucky for Christmas!’), those 11 secrets herbs and spices have become an integral part of the Japanese Christmas, with over three million families heading to the fast food chain on Christmas Eve.

Japan’s very first KFC opened 1970, and it wasn’t immediately popular with Japanese people. Plus with just 2% of Christians in the country, Christmas wasn’t really that much of a bit deal either.

KFC JapanKFC Japan

However Takeshi Okawara – the very first manager of a Japanese KFC – turned out to be something of a marketing genius, introducing a festive affiliation with fried chicken which would endure for many Christmases to come.


A nun who worked at a local school asked if Okawara might get involved in a Christmas party if KFC’s fried chicken was on the menu.

Okwara agreed, and even gamely dressed up as Father Christmas to mark the occasion; dancing about with one of KFC’s classic buckets. The party was a hit, and soon Okwara received other requests to put his Santa hat back on.

Japan ChristmasPA

National broadcaster NHK quickly picked up on the story, and quizzed Okawara as to whether fried chicken was actually a common Western Christmas tradition.


Okawara opted to tell a bit of a porky, admitting to Business Insider, how he had fibbed about the traditional nature of fried chicken in Western cultures:

I… know that the people are not eating chicken, they are eating turkey. But I said yes. It was [a] lie, I still regret that. But people… like it.

Despite probably now being on the naughty list, Okawara’s lie paid off big time career-wise. He is now the head of KFC Japan, with sales continuing to soar around Christmastime.

A six piece Family Feast KFC bucketKFC

Japanese citizens will queue for hours at this time of year, reserving their all important buckets of chicken weeks ahead of the big day itself.

Like any good Christmas myth – from Rudolph to the ability to the belief that there will one day be a funny cracker joke – it has endured.

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Julia Banim

Jules studied English Literature with Creative Writing at Lancaster University before earning her masters in International Relations at Leiden University in The Netherlands (Hoi!). She then trained as a journalist through News Associates in Manchester. Jules has previously worked as a mental health blogger, copywriter and freelancer for various publications.

Topics: Food, Christmas, Christmas Dinner, Fast food, Japan


Business Insider
  1. Business Insider

    The man who helped make eating KFC at Christmas a Japanese tradition says the practice is built on a lie that he still regrets — but that saved his business