Tokyo: Where KFC Means Christmas 🍗

KFC is a festive tradition in Japan with an estimated 3.6 million families feasting on the Colonel’s 11 secret herbs and spices at Christmas.

Celebrating Christmas has become increasingly popular in Japan, even though just 1 per cent of the population identifies as Christian.

But rather than tucking into a traditional Christmas dinner of turkey or seafood, many Japanese families feast on buckets of deep-fried chicken from Kentucky Fried Chicken.

In fact, Christmas Eve is the busiest trading day at KFC outlets across Japan, with 10 times more customers than normal queuing up for the deep-fried fix.

(Christmas in Japan is marked on December 24, with December 25 and 26 considered normal work or school days.)

KFC Japan’s Christmas sales reached a record 7.1 billion yen ($US62.5 million) in 2019, according to research house Shared Research, but revenue fell to 6.9 billon yen in 2020 as social distancing and a wave of COVID-19 cases took hold.

This year the traditional lines of people snaked outside restaurants dwindled with more people ordering online days ahead. The company offered discounts to people who observed COVID distancing rules.

The exact origins of Japan’s love affair with KFC at Christmas has multiple versions. The company’s official line is that it was inspired by homesick foreigners who could not find turkey during the holidays.

The first “Kentucky for Christmas” promotion started in 1974 and included a bucket of golden fried chicken and a bottle of wine.

Another version suggests Takeshi Okawara – the first manager of a KFC outlet in Japan and later CEO of KFC Japan – marketed the chicken as a traditional American Christmas dish to boost business. It certainly worked.


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