Throughout December, Tokyo is celebrating the holidays with delicious festive delights and magical events. Read on and fill up your holiday to-do list with these fun-filled suggestions.
Celebrate the Holidays in Style with these Festive Activities in Tokyo
Visit Tokyo Christmas Market
Christmas markets have been a timeless holiday tradition that many frequent during the holidays, especially in European countries such as Germany. Fortunately, this season residents and tourists alike can participate in the treasured activity in the very heart of the city!
Tokyo Christmas Market, located in Hibiya Park, has been active every December since 2015. This market features classic holiday delicacies such as mulled wine, hot cocoa, beef stew, sausages, roast beef, and even Christmas roast chicken! The famous chocolate brand Lindt will also be setting up shop this year and selling seasonal mugs to commemorate the celebration. For shoppers on the hunt for a unique gift, traditional goods such as Matryoshka dolls (stacking dolls), Russian folk crafts, ornaments, and other popular holiday commodities will be available for purchase. To top it off, at the very center of the market, a 14-meter-high “Christmas Pyramid” will be on display illuminating into the night. This popular market is truly a holiday event worth visiting!
For more information on tickets and access to Tokyo’s Christmas market, visit their official website here.
Jazz Up Your Home With Christmas Decor
As the years have passed and the demand for all things Christmas has become more and more popularized in Japan, getting your hands on a real Christmas tree and decorations isn’t as hard as it used to be. For example, Ikea has the most affordable real trees that can even be collected after use for easy disposal. Keep in mind that trees are only available for pickup in-store. These Nordmann firs are sold from the end of November until they’re gone, so advanced planning may be recommended!
If looking for a low-maintenance tree, an artificial tree is the way to go. Nitori has gorgeous fake trees with ornaments and garlands included, although these trees are on the smaller side, they’re perfect for Tokyo apartments. I picked up a Nitori tree more than 4 years ago and it’s still in great condition! For larger artificial trees, Costco has Christmas trees ranging from 274 cm to a whopping 457 cm!
For decorations, holiday-themed tchotchkes, and festive gifts, my favorite place to shop on the cheap is Flying Tiger! Their wrapping paper and ribbon are superior to Diaso and their Christmas-themed garlands, ornaments, and kitchenware are perfect for household decorations! Other shops I recommend this year for stocking stuffers and decor are Francfranc and the Awesome Store. Regardless of what type of tree and decorations you find for your home, it’s clear that this year especially, you’ll have a much easier go and finding everything you need.
Sink Your Teeth Into Seasonal Holiday Sweets
Tokyoites who’ve been patiently waiting for seasonal treats and drinks will be overjoyed to find that this year is overflowing with scrumptious confections. When it comes to sweet drinks, Tully’s has gone above and beyond this year and so far its holiday drinks include an Irish Latte, Tea Pistachio & Berry Milk Tea, and a berry-flavored frozen drink called “Holiday Framboise” donned with whipped cream and berry sauce! Tully’s is also serving up Harry Potter-themed drinks such as a Mince Pie Latte and a Mince Pie Milk Tea! These decadent drinks are donned with a star-shaped cookie and served in a special Harry Potter-themed cup to boot!
For Starbucks lovers, the holiday frappuccino and desserts are always heavily anticipated! This December, a leveled-up version of the caramel frappe called the “Butter Caramel Mille Feuille” has been included as its second seasonal drink in Starbucks’ holiday lineup and can be enjoyed in either frappuccino or latte form. Don’t forget about the delicious cakes such as my two current favorites: the Strawberry Chewy Crepe Cake and the Uji Matcha Chiffon Cake.
Other sweets I’m keeping tabs on are Krispy Kreme’s special winter donuts. This year’s cute donut-shaped characters include a Milk Kreme Santa, Chocolate Snowman, Caramel Christmas Bear, and a scrumptious Pistachio Wreath for added decoration. Last but not least, ice cream lovers are already lining up for Mcdonald’s Caramel Pretzel and Strawberry Cocoa Cake McFlurrys! The festive ice creams will be available for a limited time and cost around 340 yen so get yours before it’s too late!
Treat Yourself to a Luxurious Christmas Dinner
If you’re like me and have been celebrating the holidays far from home, a luxurious dinner with familiar holiday dishes is a great way to celebrate! Fortuitously, Tokyo has a wide variety of restaurants serving premium Christmas course dinners only offered this time of the year!
For those living in west Tokyo, “BRASSERIE Amicale,” a trendy French restaurant in Tachikawa, offers a decadent 7-course Christmas feast only available December 23, 24, and 25th. Due to the restaurant’s popularity, holiday dates may get booked fast! However, the restaurant also includes special lunch and dinner options throughout the month! As a satisfied diner who has visited this restaurant not only for the special Christmas course but also for their standard dinner course, I cannot recommend this restaurant enough!
For an even grander dining experience, the Grand Hyatt Tokyo has several restaurants offering festive Christmas dinners. For instance, The Oak Door, The French Kitchen, and Fiorentina all have exclusive dinner sets available throughout the holidays! If timing and themed sets aren’t much of an issue, The Oak Door is currently having an “Online Early Bird Special” at a discounted price if you reserve between 6:00 to 6:45 PM. This exceptional offer is hard to pass up, especially since it’s an 8-course dinner with the added option of surf and turf! I’m always in search of dinner and a deal, so you don’t be alarmed if you bump into me at The Oak Door!
Experience Tokyo’s Winter Illuminations
Last but not least, one cannot truly experience Christmas in Japan without viewing winter illuminations! If it’s your first time and you’re somewhat confused about the activity, you’ll soon find out that there’s not much to it. The closest definition can be described as a “light festival” often enjoyed with family, friends, or couples. Popular Tokyo areas, such as Omotesando, Roppongi Hills, and Tokyo Dome City have specific illuminations that residents look forward to every year. I particularly enjoy viewing and strolling through the twinkling zelkova trees between Harajuku and Omotesando Station.
About one hour out from the city center, Sagamiko Pleasure Forest has some of the biggest and brightest winter illuminations in the greater Tokyo area! With 6 million LED lights, this forest is coined as (one of) “Kanto’s Three Major Illuminations” since 2018. This year, the park is collaborating with Sumikkogurashi for an especially kawaii winter illumination experience. In the past, the park has displayed various themed illuminations such as Pokemon-themed and even Sailor Moon-themed lights! Sagamiko Pleasure Forest has many amenities including the 250-meter-long “Niji no Lift” where one can view the illuminations from high above in a relaxing lift ride. This park is gorgeous and truly unforgettable especially if you’re looking for a longer winter illumination excursion.