The One about Japanese Love for KFC on Christmas

In Japan, Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC) is huge!

Sure, in America, we have watched the corny KFC commercials of comedians dressed up as Colonel Sanders and we have grown up with the “Finger Lickin’ Good” slogan and the restaurant is more or less a fast food chain for those jonesing for fried chicken.

In Japan, they have a different type of branding that promotes family and couple bonding over fried chicken.  But there is one thing that KFC Japan has the admiration of many Japanese over KFC America and that is, Christmas dinner is about KFC!

I know, it may be surprising to many of you.  But considering that Japanese don’t have the same love for turkey, cranberry sauce, mash potatoes and gravy, KFC Christmas is the way to go and it has been that way since 1974.

And from December 23 through December 25, KFC Japan earned over $6 billion yen ($53 Million in the US) which is the equivalent to 24 million pieces of chicken sold.  Christmas 2017 was the largest sales for KFC Japan.

Kentucky Fried Chicken Japan’s success for over 30-years can be thanked to its marketing campaign.

Christmas in Japan is more like an extended Valentine’s Day.  For one, only 1% to 2% of the population are Christian, so the way people celebrate Christmas in America is much differently in Japan.  Japan it’s about illuminated areas, major sales, Christmas cakes and it’s about love, relationships and family.

From as long as I have seen KFC Japan’s commercials on television, the company starts earlier, promotions and music artist or talent collaborations go in full force and there are two Japanese Christmas songs that people identify with Christmas.

Tatsuro Yamashita’s “Christmas Eve” which is part of the hugely popular Japanese Railways commercial campaign from the ’80s through the early 2000s.  And the other, by Yamashita’s wife, popular music artist, Mariya Takeuchi’s Christmas song, “Suteki na Holiday” for Kentucky Fried Chicken which began in 2000 and has been used by KFC Japan for their Christmas campaign song since then.

And while I joked about it on my Facebook page since November, I knew that I would have to partake in KFC Japan in some sort of way.

I left Japan several days before Christmas, so I couldn’t partake an open invitation by my friend Hiroki to join his family for KFC during the Christmas holiday (families tend to pre-order a bucket of fried chicken with some cool side-dishes.  But I figured, I’ll just get something small.  A lunch meal would do.

As you can see on the poster, it’s telling people when their KFC Christmas meal is available and their packs which are Y3000 or Y2800 and then the KFC Christmas Barrell which includes eight pieces of KFC fried chicken, Christmas salad and cake for Y4100 ($36.36 US).  Compare to KFC USA in which a 16-piece meal with 4 large sides & 8 biscuits cost $36.99.


So, I purchased a lunch meal which came with two small pieces of chicken, curly fries (mashed potatoes and gravy is not popular among Japanese, so it’s either curly fries, cole slaw or a biscuit – which has a hole in the middle) and a drink and there are differences.

For one, the pieces seem a bit smaller (no surprise, considering Japanese think that American portions are too big), Japanese fried chicken is less greasy and that Japanese prefer dark meat as opposed to KFC America which people prefer white meat.

And for this two-piece set, it was about Y680 (a little over $6).  So, it’s comparable to the US which is $5.99.

And there are no choices of original recipe or extra crispy.   KFC Japan only sells original recipe.

Overall, it was tasty.  Tasted like KFC America in terms of the original recipe being used.

But I must confess, eating at KFC Japan is probably the first time I ate KFC since I ate at a KFC America over a decade ago.

Nevertheless, I can finally say that I ate KFC during the Christmas holiday season in Japan and if a Japanese friend ever asks if I have ever eaten KFC during the Christmas holidays, now I can say “yes”.