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Why do Japanese eat KFC?


Japanese culture is fascinating and unique in many ways. One of the most interesting aspects of Japanese culture is their love for KFC. Every year, on Christmas Eve, millions of Japanese people line up outside KFC restaurants to enjoy the famous fried chicken. This tradition has been going on for over 40 years, and it has become an integral part of Japanese culture. In this article, we will explore the history behind this tradition and analyze the reasons why Japanese people eat KFC on Christmas Eve.

The Origins of the Tradition

The tradition of eating KFC on Christmas Eve started in the 1970s when a group of foreign tourists visited Japan during the holiday season. At that time, there were only a few Western-style restaurants in Japan, and most people had never tasted fried chicken before. The tourists wanted to have a traditional Christmas dinner, but they couldn’t find any turkey or ham. So they decided to try KFC, which was one of the few restaurants that served fried chicken at that time. They were so impressed with the taste that they recommended it to their friends back home.

Japanese Snack Box

KFC’s Marketing Strategy

The success of KFC’s marketing campaign in Japan cannot be underestimated. KFC launched its first Christmas campaign in Japan in 1974, and it featured a “Kentucky for Christmas” slogan. The campaign was a huge success, and it attracted many Japanese customers who were looking for a new way to celebrate Christmas. KFC capitalized on this success by continuing to promote its Christmas menu and offering special promotions during the holiday season.

Christmas in Japan

In Japan, Christmas is not a national holiday, and it is not celebrated in the same way as it is in Western countries. For most Japanese people, Christmas is more like Valentine’s Day or Halloween – it’s a day to have fun and spend time with friends and family. Many people exchange gifts and decorate their homes with Christmas lights and decorations. But unlike in other countries, where people might cook a big turkey dinner or go out to a fancy restaurant, Japanese people often prefer to order takeout food or go out to eat at fast-food chains like KFC.

Menu Items

One of the reasons why KFC is so popular in Japan is because they offer a special Christmas menu that includes fried chicken, cake, and champagne. The menu has changed over the years, but some of the most popular items include “Kentucky Fried Christmas Chicken,” which is a bucket of fried chicken with sides like coleslaw and mashed potatoes; “Premium Roast Chicken,” which is a whole roasted chicken with herbs and spices; and “Strawberry Shortcake,” which is a light and fluffy cake topped with fresh strawberries.

The Power of Advertising

KFC’s marketing campaigns have played a significant role in making fried chicken a staple food for Christmas Eve in Japan. Every year, KFC launches new commercials and promotions that feature popular Japanese celebrities or characters like Colonel Sanders dressed up as Santa Claus. These campaigns are designed to appeal to Japanese consumers’ love for cute characters and celebrity endorsements.

Supply and Demand

One reason why KFC has been able to maintain its dominance in the fast-food market in Japan is because they have established a reliable supply chain. They work closely with local suppliers to ensure that they always have fresh ingredients available, even during peak periods like Christmas Eve. Additionally, because so many people order KFC on Christmas Eve, it can be difficult to get a reservation at other restaurants or even order from other fast-food chains.

Cultural Significance

Eating KFC on Christmas Eve has become an important cultural tradition in Japan over the years. For many families, it’s an opportunity to relax and enjoy a festive meal together without having to worry about cooking or cleaning up afterwards. It’s also seen as a way to connect with Western culture and celebrate the holiday season in their own unique way.

Similar Traditions Around the World

While eating KFC on Christmas Eve may seem like an unusual tradition to many Westerners, there are similar traditions in other parts of the world. In Spain, for example, people often eat grapes at midnight on New Year’s Eve. In South Africa, it’s common to eat deep-fried doughnuts called “koeksisters” on Sundays or special occasions.

Criticism and Controversies

Despite its popularity, eating KFC on Christmas Eve has also faced criticism from some groups who see it as an example of excessive commercialization of holidays. Some Christian groups have also criticized the tradition for overshadowing the religious significance of Christmas. Others point out that eating fried foods regularly can be unhealthy and contribute to obesity.


In conclusion, eating KFC on Christmas Eve has become an important cultural tradition in Japan over the past 40 years. It started as a result of chance encounters between foreign tourists and local restaurants but was quickly adopted by Japanese consumers thanks to clever marketing campaigns by KFC. Today, millions of Japanese people look forward to this annual tradition as a way to celebrate the holiday season with their loved ones while enjoying delicious fried chicken together.

Is KFC popular in Japan?

After successful implementation in KFC’s initial Japanese location, the promotion was introduced nationwide, leading to KFC becoming Japan’s largest fast food chain and Japan becoming KFC’s primary foreign market. As of January 18, 2023, this remains true.

Why do Japanese people like KFC at Christmas?

In 2020, KFC’s worldwide website released a statement explaining that their “Christmas Fried Chicken” campaign was inspired by a foreign customer who visited a KFC location in Tokyo on Christmas Day and remarked that they were unable to find turkey in Japan, so they had to celebrate the holiday with KFC instead.

Why do some people eat fried chicken in Japan?

In Japan, many families did not have large enough kitchens to roast a turkey for Thanksgiving, so they often chose to prepare chicken instead. As karaage chicken was already a well-liked dish, it was only natural that American-style fried chicken became a popular alternative.

Is KFC fancy in Japan?

In Japan, KFC is viewed as a more upscale and pricier fast food option than other chains. Additionally, individuals must have a certification as a “chicken specialist” in order to prepare chicken at KFC in Japan.

What is the main religion in Japan?

Japan does not have a dominant religion, and many people follow a mixture of different religious practices. As reported by the Japanese government in 2018, 69.0% of the population practices Shintō, 66.7% practice Buddhism, 1.5% practice Christianity, and 6.2% practice other religions.

Why is KFC so popular in Asia?

The popularity of KFC in Asia, much like in the United States, can be attributed to its delicious taste. The secret recipe of the Colonel’s herbs and spices adds a touch of mystery to the flavor, making it extremely addictive.

Despite the criticism and controversies, KFC’s Christmas Eve tradition in Japan shows the power of marketing and how it can influence cultural practices. The success of this tradition has also led to other fast food chains in Japan offering their own special Christmas menus in an attempt to compete with KFC’s popularity. However, KFC remains the clear leader in this tradition, with people lining up for hours to get their hands on a bucket of fried chicken.

It’s interesting to note that KFC’s Christmas campaign has become so successful that it has inspired other fast-food chains and restaurants around the world to create their own holiday-themed menus. In some countries, KFC has even partnered with local restaurants to offer fusion dishes that incorporate local flavors and ingredients.

While KFC’s Christmas Eve tradition may seem unusual to outsiders, it’s important to remember that every culture has its own unique traditions and practices. What might seem strange or unfamiliar to one person can be completely normal and acceptable in another part of the world. Ultimately, the most important thing is that people come together with their loved ones to celebrate and enjoy each other’s company, regardless of what food they choose to eat.

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