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Why KFC DOMINATES Japanese Christmas

In the United States, Christmas Dinner usually centerpieces around a meaty main course. It varies on the tastes of the host but can be ham, roast beef, or poultry such as roasted chicken, turkey, duck or goose. In some coastal regions, seafood is common such as oysters and shrimp. In rural areas you may be served game meat such as quail, elk or venison. People with Scandinavian roots in the upper midwest are known to force lutefisk upon guests. If you’re not aware of what lutefisk is, it is whitefish, typically cod, treated in lye. These people are not your friends…

No matter where you’re at in the USA, it’s safe to say your Christmas dinner traditions are nothing like those in Japan. Get this, every year across Japan, people LINE UP at Kentucky Fried Chicken joints to place their orders for Christmas dinner. Their yearly ad campaign has just become part of Japanese culture at this point. Obviously, not everyone in Japan eats KFC on Christmas, not even everyone in Japan celebrates Christmas, but the fast food chicken giant has become inseparable from Christmas Day in Japan.

Kentucky Fried Chickens opened in Japan in the 1970s. The Japanese Mitsubishi Corporation (Yes, the same people who make cars) partnered with the American company and opened the first Japanese KFC at the Osaka World Expo in March 1970. By December 1973, 100 outlets had been opened in Japan and lots of Japanese fingers were being licked. So how did KFC come to dominate the Christmas holiday in Japan? It all started when a Christian kindergarten wanted to order KFC for its kiddie Christmas party. The manager appeared at the party in full Santa gear, saying, “Merry Christmas” to all the children’s delight. Word of mouth spread and gradually, more and more schools ordered KFC for their holiday parties. Seeing this success, in 1974, KFC held its first special Christmas meal campaign! Decades later, KFC’s “Kentucky Christmas” as it’s called, has become a holiday mainstay, with people growing up eating fried chicken on the special day and passing it on the next generations.

The meals are now special family meal-sized boxes filled with chicken, cake, salad and wine. The meals range from a box of chicken for 3,780 yen, ($33), up to a “premium” whole-roasted chicken and sides for 5,800 yen ($51). According to KFC, the packages account for about 1/3 of their yearly sales in Japan!

Every Christmas season, an estimated 3.6 million Japanese families treat themselves to Kentucky Fried Chicken, in what has become a nationwide tradition

These are typical scenes in Japan on Christmas. Lines all over the country’s franchises:

 

 

 

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