Spending Christmas in an unfamiliar environment can be an adventure and a memorable experience.
Unfortunately, it can also be a big disappointment sometimes.
For me, Christmas in Japan is usually a little disappointing. I would much rather spend the Christmas holidays at home in Germany with my family. Spending my time decorating the Christmas tree, eating delicious Christmas cookies and just enjoying quality family time.
But since that isn’t possible this year, I am going to make the most of Christmas in Nagoya together with my husband.
After extensive research on what I could do this holiday season, I put together a plan for myself, and this post for everyone else who is spending the Christmas season in Nagoya.
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Christmas in Japan
But first, let’s talk about Christmas in Japan in general. What to expect and how it is different from other countries.
Since Japan isn’t a Christian country, Christmas isn’t engrained in the culture as it is in most western countries. For this reason, it is a very casual holiday. Meaning, not everyone in the country celebrates it.
Celebrating Christmas in Japan
Here in Japan, Christmas is not a family holiday, but rather a time to spend romantically with your partner, and if you are single, with your friends. Nowadays more families with small children do celebrate Christmas together.
Since Christmas isn’t a holiday in Japan, people celebrate Christmas not necessarily on the 24th or 25th of December but rather on the weekend before or after those dates.
Christmas in Japan is dominated by consumerism (I guess it’s the same in many countries nowadays). People buy decorations for their homes, presents for their partner, friends, and children. Money is spent on a nice dinner and, of course, on a Christmas cake, the traditional sweet of the season.
A Christmas cake is usually a strawberry shortcake, all white and red with lots of cream and strawberries. You can buy them on the day itself or order your Christmas cake weeks in advance at your local supermarket, convenience store, or department store to be delivered to your home.
The Christmas dinner in Japan is even stranger to me, as Christmas is most often associated with eating Kentucky Fried Chicken. It must have been a hell of a marketing campaign to convince a whole country that KFC is appropriate holiday food.
For those people who fancy something better, many French, Italian or other Western-inspired restaurants do offer Christmas dinners. But those are usually quite expensive.
My advice is, if you happen to spend Christmas in Japan, don’t expect too much of the holiday here, so you won’t be disappointed if you don’t get in the Christmas spirit as you would get at home.
And if you still want to do something special and memorable, here are your options for Christmas in Nagoya.
Things to do in Nagoya for Christmas
There are quite a couple of things you can do in Nagoya for Christmas. Not only on the day itself but in the month or so leading up to the event.
Decoration usually goes up on the 1st of November, with shops starting to play Christmas songs and selling Christmas items.
Winter Illuminations in Nagoya
One of the first signs of Christmas in Japan are the winter illuminations starting all over the country. These illuminations do not always have a Christmas theme but are beautiful nonetheless.
In Nagoya, you will find illuminations especially all-around Nagoya Station, and it is worth walking around the station area to find the best ones. The whole atmosphere around Nagoya Station at night is simply spectacular with the millions of Christmas lights.
For an (almost) complete list of winter illuminations going on in Nagoya, check out the Nagoya in December post.
The best winter illumination of them all is at the Nabana no Sato flower park about 30 minutes from Nagoya. It is not only one of the biggest in Japan, but also one of the longest. Starting in October and ending in May. Plenty of time for people to visit and enjoy this spectacle.
The 2019/2020 theme is Sakura, which is the Japanese word for cherry blossoms. The highlight will be the gigantic display with millions of led lights depicting scenes of Sakura and spring.
Many people visit Nabana no Sato because of the Tunnel of Lights. It is an amazing photo opportunity and a feature at the illumination every year.
For more information on the Nabana no Sato winter illumination, click here.
NABANA NO SATO
Entry Fee: 2300 yen (including 1000 yen gift ticket)
Opening Hours: Oct 19. 2019 – May 4. 2020 5:00 p.m. – 10:00 p.m.
Address: 270 Komae, Nagashima-chō, Kuwana-shi, Mie-ken, 511-1144
Website | Google Maps
Nagoya Christmas Markets
Nagoya has a couple of Christmas Markets in December.
The best-known one is Nagoya Christmas Market at Hisaya Odori Park in Sakae District. This Christmas market like so many others in Japan is inspired by European Christmas markets serving German sausages, beer, and mulled wine.
Live performances are held throughout the day and you can even buy some handcrafted items as Christmas presents or to decorate your home.
NAGOYA CHRISTMAS MARKET
Entry Fee: free
Opening Hours: Dec 7. – Dec 23. 2019 weekdays 3:00 p.m. – 8:30 p.m., weekends 11:00 a.m. – 8:30 p.m.
Address: 3-65 Sakae, Naka Ward, Nagoya, Aichi 460-0008
Website (Japanese only)| Google Maps
Another Christmas Market can be found at Sasashima Live just south of Nagoya Station. It is called Sasashime Xmas Lights 2019.
This market features a gigantic LED tree, and around 20 booths selling a wide variety of food and drink including Austrian and German foods. You will also find multiple stalls selling decorations and Christmas presents.
There is also a stage with regular entertainment and shows.
SASASHIMA XMAS LIGHTS 2019
Entry Fee: free
Opening Hours: Dec 6. – Dec 25. 2019, weekdays 4:00 p.m. – 9:00 p.m. weekends 12:00 p.m. – 9:00 p.m.
Address: 7 Ungacho, Nakamura Ward, Nagoya, Aichi 453-0873
Website (Japanese only) | Google Maps
If you were looking for real German Christmas decoration you should check out the Christmas Market inside Midland Square. Käthe Wohlfahrt is the most popular brand of German Christmas decorations. You can buy adorable objects for your home or as gifts for friends and family.
Christmas Markets are just amazing to get into the Christmas spirit. With the booths, the delicious smell of hot wine with spices in the air, and Christmas carols all around you can almost forget you are in Japan and just enjoy the season.
Iceless Skate Rink
Winter sports are a great way to get into the Christmas spirit. But it is usually still too warm to go skiing in the Japanese Alps in December, with most ski resorts close to Nagoya opening for the season at the end of December.
For this reason, a visit to the iceless skate rink set up at Oasis 21 each year is a great place for some winter sports. This skating rink is not covered by ice but rather with durable polymer panels that behave like ice.
This has the advantage that it needs much less energy, and if you fall on the ground you won’t get wet and cold. Perfect for beginners and children.
OASIS 21 ICELESS SKATE RINK
Entry Fee: weekdays 900 yen, weekends 1200 yen, children 500 yen
Opening Hours: Nov 23. 2019 – Mar 1. 2020, weekdays 1:00 p.m. – 8:00 p.m., weekends 10:00 a.m. – 8:00 p.m.
Address: 1-11-1 Higashisakura, Higashi Ward, Nagoya, Aichi 461-0005
Website (Japanese only) | Google Maps
For some Christmas family fun visit Legoland Japan and join in their Christmas event called BricXmas.
Gigantic Christmas themed Lego objects, Christmas workshops, and limited-time shows and events are the highlights of this event. Meet Lego Santa Claus and have fun at Legoland Japan during the Christmas season.
If music is your way of enjoying Christmas to the fullest, you will find many places where you can attend free and paid Christmas concerts and musical performances in Nagoya.
Free concerts are held, for example, at JR Takashimaya, Midland Square, and KITTE Nagoya. Which are all located around Nagoya Station. Or in the Sakae area at Hisaya Odori Garden Flarie and LACHIC.
For a list of free Christmas concerts in Nagoya, this year check out this post.
ISOGAI Fireworks Theater in Nagoya Port
In Japan, the season for fireworks is during summer when you will find a fireworks display every weekend in one place or another. These fireworks displays cost a lot of money and are very sophisticated. And simply stunning.
On the weekend before Christmas, a special winter fireworks display is held at the Port of Nagoya. This is meant as a Christmas event to go with your family, partner, or friends to enjoy the season.
Tickets for reserved seating are available, but since the fireworks will rise into the sky over the water, you should have a great view even without a paid seat.
Just make sure to wear warm clothing, as standing around outside for half an hour can get really cold in December, even in Japan.
ISOGAI FIREWORKS THEATER IN NAGOYA PORT
Entry Fee: free, reserved seats 3500 yen – 10000 yen
Opening Hours: Dec 21. 2019 6:30 p.m. – 7:15 p.m.
Address: 1-1 Minatomachi, Minato Ward, Nagoya, Aichi 455-0033
Website (Japanese only)| Google Maps
Traditional Japanese Christmas Food
I did mention the tradition to eat Christmas cake and Kentucky Fried Chicken for Christmas, so I would like to give you some more details on where you can get these Christmas foods in Nagoya.
Kentucky Fried Chicken
There are 16 KFC restaurants in the greater Nagoya area, with the one with the best access located close to Fushimi Station on the Higashiyama line, just between Nagoya Station and Sakae Station.
If you do decide to follow the Japanese Christmas tradition and want to buy KFC, be aware that there will be long lines at any of the outlets, especially during peak times. If you don’t like standing in line, you might want to avoid KFC over Christmas.
You can also order a special Christmas menu on the internet.
A party barrel consists of 8 pieces of chicken, shrimp gratin, and a triple berry tiramisu as dessert. This comes in a festive barrel and a Christmas themed serving plate is included.
Other smaller and bigger sets are also available.
If you do want to try the original Christmas cake in Japan, you can either preorder one at the convenience store or supermarket. However, that is probably only possible if you live in Japan and speak some Japanese.
For tourists, it is best to simply visit a cake shop on the day and buy your Christmas cake on the spot. You should expect some wait time here as well, as many Japanese will be buying Christmas cakes as well.
Your best bet is the underground levels of any department store, where you will find multiple shops selling different variations of Christmas cake. Close to Nagoya Station, you can either try the Takashimaya or Meitetsu department stores. In Sakae, you have the option of Mitsukoshi and Matsuzakaya.
The original Christmas cake is white cream with strawberries, but you will also find chocolate cream shortcakes and other kinds of cakes decorated in a festive way.
If KFC doesn’t appeal to you, a fancy dinner might be just what you need. Many fine dining restaurants in Nagoya will offer a special Christmas dinner plan for their guests. You will usually have to make a reservation, so I suggest if you want to have a special Christmas dinner to reserve the restaurant of your choice as soon as possible.
Christmas dinners are usually western-inspired multi-course meals. Often with a French or Italian touch. They are served at fancy restaurants and can cost upwards of 100 US dollars per person.
For an unforgettable Christmas dinner, try the Sky Lounge Zenith one of the restaurants at the Nagoya Mariott Associa Hotel. You could also visit Cépages Wine Lounge & Restaurant on the 51st floor of the JR Central Towers.
My Christmas Day in Nagoya
I have decided to fully enjoy the Christmas season in Japan. So, in the weeks leading up to Christmas day, I will visit many of the aforementioned winter illuminations. I will do Christmas shopping in Sakae and visit the Christmas Market there.
At home, I will bake Christmas cookies, and supplement them with other delicious sweets being sold at bakeries in Nagoya.
On the 21st of December, which is the Saturday before Christmas I will spend the day at Nagoya Port. On a nice Christmas date with my husband. We will visit the aquarium, enjoy the Christmas illumination there, maybe ride some attractions at the Sea Train Land and end the day with the ISOGAI fireworks and then a nice dinner somewhere.
If you spend Christmas in Nagoya, let me know what your plans are for the holidays in the comments below!
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In love with Japan and its amazing food, Lena wants to share her passion with the world. That’s why she started Nagoya Foodie. To teach about Nagoya, her adoptive home online through blog posts and offline through unique food tours.