Will Japan have a blue Christmas this year?

In Japan, Christmas starts the day after Halloween. The orange and black decorations are spirited away and replaced with a festive wrapping of red, green and gold almost overnight. This sudden transformation seems to blanket the country in a wave of Christmas cheer ⁠— and it’s getting bigger every year.

Amidst all the holiday hubbub, one Christmas tradition stands out in particular as unique to Japan. Unlike western countries that tend to focus on family for the holidays, the prevailing trends in Japan paint Christmas as a romantic holiday for couples, closer to Valentine’s Day than anything else. So how do Japanese people plan to spend the yuletide this year? Look no further ⁠— Rakuten Insight has the answers.

Christmas in Japan: Less lonely in 2019

To get a better understanding of how Japanese people celebrate Christmas, Rakuten Insight surveyed 1,000 people between the ages of 20 to 69 on their plans for the holiday season. The numbers revealed some interesting insights: Only 15% of people plan on spending Christmas alone, with a majority of respondents answering that they will enjoy the big day next to someone special this year.

60% of those surveyed answered that they’re going to spend Christmas with their significant other. News of declining birthrates and a greying population may mask a pleasant surprise: This number is on the rise. In 2017, only 46% people reported they would spend Christmas with a partner. A 14% increase in two years indicates that perhaps people are less lonely this year?

Goodbye Christmas fruitcakes, hello trendy craft pastries

Craft confectionaries are in for 2019.

Festive cakes are a perennial favorite in Japan. And the country’s sweet toothed merry-makers are already thinking about where to put in their orders for this year’s culinary delights. Of the options available, almost 58% of people plan to pre-order a Christmas cake from a craft cake shop, more than respondents who indicated they will pre-order one from a convenience store. While this cake-frenzy is nothing new, what stands out is that this number out-classed the 50% of people who plan to pre-order from well-established chain stores: Craft confectionaries are in for 2019.

The data also unveiled another interesting trend for people in their 20s: 46% of women and 25% of men revealed their ideal Christmas day involved hitting the town to check out the Christmas lights. In fact, illumination dating and seasonal events were more popular than any other Christmas activity outside the home.

At the same time, not everyone agreed that Christmas needs to be a big evening out on the town. 41% of people answered that they don’t plan to do anything special.

No Secret Santa in Japan?

While many people around the world exchange gifts on Christmas, Japan tends to take the road less traveled. Surprisingly, 61% of men and 42% of women answered that they don’t expect anyone to give them presents, while only 23% of men and 24% of women plan to give presents to their partner.

But how much will these partners spend on presents? The most common answer was 10,000 to 20,000 yen ($91 – $182), which accounted for 25% of respondents. Research also revealed a 4,000 yen ($36) difference between men and women’s budgets for partner’s Christmas presents. The average cost of presents from men was 15,700 yen ($143), while for women it was only 11,761 yen ($107). This may stem from a fundamental difference in how presents are perceived.

While most people in Japan still hold the traditional view that New Year’s holiday is more important for spending time with family and friends, the data doesn’t lie: Christmas is growing on Japan.

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