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24th Dec 2022

It’s tradition to eat KFC on Christmas in Japan

Steve Hopkins

A finger-licking good festive tradition

Christmas dinner in the UK usually only means one thing – turkey.

But in Japan, they clearly can’t be bothered waiting around three and half hours for a bird to cook.

They tuck into KFC instead, a rather unlikely festive tradition that may have started from a fib.

In 1974, KFC launched its ‘Kurisumasu ni wa Kentakkii!’ campaign (which translates as ‘Kentucky for Christmas!’) after the business opened its first store in the country 4 years earlier.

The Japanese are said to have gone finger-licking mad for the Colonel’s special recipe ever since with some three million families flocking to the fast-food chain on Christmas Eve every year.

From buckets to burger meals, the festive menu is said to draw in large crowds to KFC franchises across Japan.

Takeshi Okawara, who managed the first KFC franchise in Japan, is said to have started the tradition when he was asked to cater for a school Christmas party.

The holiday was not widely observed in the country at the time, but Okawara went all-in, even dressing up as Santa Claus.

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The event was reportedly a huge success and another kindergarten class then requested a KFC-themed Christmas party.

Soon, stores in Japan began marketing fried chicken as a commonplace Western tradition and even claimed to the national broadcaster, NHK, that it was often an alternative to turkey.

The lie then took hold.

Okawara told Business Insider in 2019: “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.”

Slowly but surely, an entire nation was convinced that going to KFC was a Christmas tradition.

KFC Japan says that Okawara’s story isn’t quite accurate, the Business Insider reported. According to parent company Yum Brands, a visiting foreigner suggested that KFC start selling chicken on Christmas instead of the traditional turkey.

But the fast-food doesn’t come cheap. In Japan, a Christmas pack of KFC costs between ¥2,000 (£14) to ¥8,000 (£56).

Watch a video on how KFC became a tradition in Japan here.

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