‘Tis the Season for KFC in Japan

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colonel sandersHave you ever noticed that Colonel Sanders looks kind of like Santa Claus? No? Well, some people in Japan did, and this perceived resemblance has helped to fuel a tradition where people in the island nation order buckets of KFC for their Christmas feast.

“Christmas is more like our Valentine’s Day in a sense,” said Ryan Goldstein, an American who has lived and worked in Tokyo on and off for the past twenty years. “It’s more of a couples holiday. You take your girlfriend to dinner, you buy a Christmas cake that’s usually chocolate, and hotels are sold out well in advance because lots of people book hotel rooms.”

And many living in Japan choose Kentucky Fried Chicken to enjoy for their Christmas staycation.

The KFC for Christmas trend in Japan reportedly dates back to 1971 when a foreigner was disappointed with the lack of turkey at restaurants and decided KFC was their best alternative.

KFC’s holiday marketing campaign, including images of Colonel Sanders sporting a Santa suit, started in 1974. Similar to the effect that Coca-Cola’s Christmassy billboards have in many countries, KFC’s Christmas advertising in Japan marks the beginning of the holiday season there.

A friend of Goldstein’s translated a KFC Christmas menu from the fried chicken giant’s Japanese website. A standard offering there includes: “A party barrel of original chicken (8 pcs) and it comes with a Christmas salad, chocolate nut cake and a Christmas plate.” There are also premium menus available that need to be ordered in advance.

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Christmas meal featured on KFC’s Japanese Website (The original image is no longer available, please contact KCRW if you need access to the original image.)

For more on the KFC Christmas feast in Japan, listen to Evan Kleiman’s interview with Tracy Slater, an American writer who lives in Japan, below.