While millions do celebrate Christmas with KFC, others in Japan treat it as a romantic holiday similar to Valentine’s Day, and couples mark the occasion with dinner in upscale restaurants. For other Japanese families, Christmas is acknowledged but not celebrated in any particular way.
But for those who do partake, it’s not as simple as walking in and ordering. December is a busy month for KFC in Japan – daily sales at some restaurants during the Christmas period can be 10 times their usual take. Getting the KFC special Christmas dinner often requires ordering it weeks in advance, and those who didn’t will wait in line, sometimes for hours.
‘Kentucky for Christmas’
According to KFC Japan spokeswoman Motoichi Nakatani, it started thanks to Takeshi Okawara, the manager of the first KFC in the country. Shortly after it opened in 1970, Okawara woke up at midnight and jotted down an idea that came to him in a dream: a “party barrel” to be sold on Christmas.
Okawara dreamed up the idea after overhearing a couple of foreigners in his store talk about how they missed having turkey for Christmas, according to Nakatani. Okawara hoped a Christmas dinner of fried chicken could be a fine substitute, and so he began marketing his Party Barrel as a way to celebrate the holiday.
In 1974, KFC took the marketing plan national, calling it Kurisumasu ni wa Kentakkii, or Kentucky for Christmas. The Party Barrel for Christmas became almost immediately a national phenomenon, says Joonas Rokka, associate professor of marketing at Emlyon Business School in France.
‘One of the strangest things I’ve heard’
This phenomenon is unique to Japan – and can seem strange to some outside the country.
“KFC on Christmas. It’s one of the strangest things I’ve heard,” Gillespie says. “If you brought a bucket of fried chicken to Christmas dinner, honestly, I’d be mad at you.”
It isn’t a crack on KFC’s products necessarily, says Gillespie. The general idea of bringing fast food to Christmas dinner “would be viewed as rude by most anyone,” Gillespie says.
In Japan, however, where around 1% of the population is Christian, Christmas isn’t an official holiday. So the idea that families are going to spend all day cooking a ham or turkey and side dishes just isn’t practical. Instead, they show up with a bucket of chicken.
“It’s kind of a symbol of family reunion,” said Ando, a 40-year-old in the marketing department of a Tokyo sporting goods company. “It’s not about the chicken. It’s about getting the family together, and then there just happens to be chicken as part of it.”
Source : BBC