Christmas KFC and Japan

Every Christmas, an estimated 3.6 million Japanese families get their holiday meal from none other than Kentucky Fried Chicken. While I’m tucking into a Norfolk Turkey or a rib of British Beef with Yorkshire puddings, roast spuds, parsnips and carrots…the Japanese love nothing more that a bucket of KFC. Bonkers? Yes..however the more I read about it…it makes perfect sense and I now admire the Japanese for taking KFC to their hearts on Christmas day.

The tradition is now one of the most sacred and one that really embodies the Japanese Christmas spirit. However its a tradition that goes back just 40 years!

The demand is so high that people start placing their orders for the special Christmas menu six weeks in advance. The wait in line on Christmas day is so long that it takes hours for people to get their meal. In short, doing Christmas the Japanese way means a visit to the Colonel!

So how did it start? 40 years ago the first KFC manager in the country, Takeshi Okawara needed to make his franchise a success, so came up with the  idea of a “party bucket,” to be sold on Christmas. He claims it came to him in a dream shortly after the company opened its doors in Japan in 1970, and after overhearing a couple of foreigners talk about how they missed the typical food at this time of the year. Not only was he trying to sell more chicken, but he was also trying to market the idea of spending more time together as a family. The true essence of Christmas some might say.

In 1974, KFC Japan launched a massive national Christmas marketing campaign and proved to be a huge success. Today, it is a core part of their tradition and has become the most popular meal for Christmas in Japan. Although being a pricey tradition, it really is about more than just the chicken. It means entire families getting together and sharing a meal..and as my wife often says when she swipes my last french fry…”sharing is caring”.