Spending Christmas in Japan? Check Out These Top 10 Great Christmas Dinner Ideas For That Splash-up Xmas Meal
1. Luxury Dining at the Park Hyatt, Tokyo
Enjoy the festive season with spectacular night views of the Tokyo skyline at the Park Hyatt in Nishi-Shinjuku. Each of the hotel’s restaurants offers Christmas dinner menus from December 22nd until through December 25th. The New York Grill's five course extravaganza (¥25,000 ) is the pick of the bunch. Tel 03 5323 3458, reservations essential.
The Girandole brasserie (14,000 ¥14,000, 03 5323 3459) and Kozue (¥18,000, 03 5323 3460) offer French and Japanese-themed versions. If you feel like getting 'Lost in Translation' with a libation The Peak Lounge offers unlimited wines, cocktails, and beer for two hours between 5:30pm and 9pm (last seating 7pm), for ¥9,500 per person. Tel. 03-5323-3461.
2. BBQ Beef at Smoke House, Tokyo
The Smoke House BBQ specialist in Harajuku is serving up a special Christmas menu from December 23 through December 25th, in addition to its regular dishes. Smoked beef stew and potato, broccoli and sour cream (¥3,500), and marshmallow tart (¥900) with ice cream are on offer. Reservations are essential. Tel. 03-6450-5855
3. Carnivorous or Vegetarian at the Pink Cow, Tokyo
The California-style Roppongi hostelry, popular with the expat crowd, hosts an annual Xmas buffet on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, with roast turkey and all the trimmings from 7pm to 10pm. There's also vegetarian meatloaf and tofu salad on offer. Yes, the Pink Cow mince pies are vegetarian too. Reservation - stating numbers, location, and time of arrival - is by mail only to email@example.com The Akasaka branch offers similar fare as a 'Holiday Dinner and Desert Set', from December 22nd through December 25th at ¥2,500. Reservation is as above. Tel. 03-6434-5773 (Roppongi); Tel. 03-6641-2998 (Akasaka)
4. A German Touch at the Christmas Market, Nagoya
Running from December 9th until December 25th, Nagoya's Christmas market is a German-themed collection of attractions and illuminations designed for all the family. Stalls with names such as Schildkrote, Schneeweiss and Himmel der Bayern (really!) sell sausages and grilled salmon, cheese pretzels and Gluhwein hot wine in Hisaya Koen park, in front of the Matsuzakaya Department Store in downtown Nagoya. Admission is free, and the market opens from 3pm to 8.30pm weekdays, 11am to 8.30pm weekends and December 23rd (public holiday).
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5. Turkey Traditional at the Hilton Osaka
Not a stone's throw from Osaka JR and Hankyu stations, Hilton Osaka has long hosted special Christmas events, and its giant Christmas tree in its foyer is a Kansai Xmas institution. From December 23rd through the 25th, its 35th floor Windows on the World restaurant is offering a Christmas lunch buffet, ¥4,500 for adults, ¥2,500 for children. In the evening the same venue hosts an 'Italian Xmas Dinner' with ¥16,000, ¥21,000 and ¥24,000 options. The Genji restaurant on the third floor is offering a similarly-priced Christmas teppanyaki dinner special. tel. 06-6347-0310
6. Keep Out The Cold at Absinthe Solaar & Café Absinthe, Osaka
Get into the seasonal spirit with a shot of its eponymous drink at these popular Mediterranean-style fusion restaurant-bars. Absinthe Solaar is located on the 7th floor of the Takashimaya Department store in Namba, whilst Café Absinthe is in Amerikamura, a short stroll from Sankaku-koen. Absinthe Solaar is offering three Christmas dinner courses from December 22nd through 24th, featuring red snapper, beef, bouillabase and lobster, at ¥5,500, ¥7,500 and ¥10,000 depending on ingredients. From 5pm. On December 25th Absinthe Solaar is throwing an Amazing Christmas Buffet with Live Music. 18:00 Start. ¥8.000 per person, limited to only 40 people.
This Xmas Café Absinthe is offering an Xmas special cheese fondue set, a Camembert cheese fondue seasoned with rosemary, and served with Turkey, bread and vegetables. (¥3000 set for 2 people). Don't forget Oscar Wilde's advice: absinthe isn’t very good for making drunks into poets, but is just the job for getting poets drunk. Tel. 06-6534-6635 (Café Absinthe); Tel. 06-6633-1445 (Asinthe Solaar)
7. Yuletide Cheer at the Westin Miyako Hotel, Kyoto
The Miyako in Keage has a long history of being the place to head in Kyoto at Xmas, with its Japanese and Chinese restaurants, and even the Mayfair coffee shop, offering festive specials to suit various tastes and budgets. The Aquablu Xmas buffet at lunch (¥3,800) and dinner (¥5,600), complete with turkey and all the Christmas favorites, is especially popular. Fans of upscale teppanyaki will wish to check out the 10-item dinner course at Kunugi(¥49,800 for two). Reservations required. Tel. 075-771-7111
8. Turkey and Craft Beer at Gastropub Tadg's, Kyoto
Chef Tadg McLoughlin is a feature on the Kyoto gastropub scene - he would say he is the Kyoto gastropub scene - and his Xmas dinners are well subscribed every year. This year Gastropub Tadg's on Kiyamachi east of the Hotel Okura, offers turkey with nut, dried fruit and lemon stuffing in a red wine turkey stock sauce and a tiramisu desert (¥3,500). Enjoy the plethora of craft beers such as Smoke & Fire Habanero Stout, Suruga Bay Imperial and Kyoto Brewing Co.'s Shunkashuto 6.5% Winter special. Reservations required. Tel. 075-213-0214
9. A Wee Dram at Molly Malone's & The Oriental Hotel, Hiroshima
Hiroshima celebrates Xmas this year with two huge illuminated displays, the Dreamination lights in downtown (pictured here, thanks to Jenni at the Japan Oblong blog for the image), and the Botanical Gardens' own show in the hills overlooking Itsukaichi. Post-lights, try Molly Malone's in Horikawacho, the city's longest standing, most authentic Irish pub. Be warned however, it closes Mondays and this year December 25th falls on a Monday. Tel. 082-244-2554
For a rather more upmarket option, the Michelin-starred French restaurant Ozawa at the Oriental Hotel Hiroshima offers full course Xmas lunch and dinner from December 23rd to December 25th at ¥10,000 and ¥18,000, respectively. It is right in the middle of town. Reservations required. Tel. 08182-240-7111
10. Hang Out in Style at WITH THE STYLE, Fukuoka
This hip boutique hotel a 7-minute walk from Hakata Station is offering three Xmas dinner options from December 22nd through the 25th, at its restaurant 'Cotton' (¥10,000, with champagne), at the steak house 'Medium Rare' (¥15,000), and at the 'On the Deck' bar lounge (dinner with Moet & Chandon Rosé champagne, ¥35,000 for two). Reservations necessary. Tel. 092-433-3941
The Japanese have taken it to their hearts, but Xmas in Japan is decidedly... different.
Yes, sponge cake, Xmas Eve dates and Kentucky Fried Chicken feature large.
No-one is quite sure when Xmas began to be celebrated in Japan, but there is evidence to suggest it was in a port town - either Kanagawa's Yokohama or Hyogo's Kobe, where the custom arose. My own favorite story has it beginning in Meiji era Kobe, where visiting dignitaries and tradesmen mistook the winter candles, songs and decorations at a Buddhist temple for the local interpretation of the Christian festival.
The story goes they turned up the following year with xmas trees, yule logs, brandy and Christmas turkeys, cake, and the local bonzes just said 'yokoso!' - you're welcome to join us.
Recently I asked Keiko - her nickname is 'Christmas Keiko', I kid you not - a 19-year old college student, her thoughts about Chrismas in Japan. A typical xmas? "A trip to the cinema on Xmas Eve with my boyfriend", Food? "Chicken". A cake? "Strawberry sponge cake, or chocolate cake". Turkey? "Do you mean kebabs? Are they Christian?" Santa Claus? "Finland".