Christmas Around the World
Reagan Library Christmas Tree Exhibit


Christmas Traditions


In Japan, Christmas in known as more of a time to spread happiness rather than a religious celebration. Christmas Eve is often celebrated more than Christmas Day. Christmas Eve is a romantic day where couples spend together and exchange presents.

Updated July 2024
Posted December 2023


Japan Flag

Japanese Christmas Tree
Japanese Christmas Tree

In JapaneseMerikurisumasu

Japanese Christmas Ornaments

Japanese Origami Christmas Ornament

Japanese Christmas Ornaments

Origami Christmas Ornament

Ronald Reagan Japan
November 9, 1983
President Reagan Nancy Reagan and Japanese Emperor Hirohito at Akasaka palace in Tokyo Japan.


An island country in East Asia. It is in the northwest Pacific Ocean and is bordered on the west by the Sea of Japan, extending from the Sea of Okhotsk in the north toward the East China Sea, Philippine Sea, and Taiwan in the south. Japan is a part of the Ring of Fire, and spans an archipelago of 14,125 islands, with the five main islands being Hokkaido, Honshu (the "mainland"), Shikoku, Kyushu, and Okinawa. Tokyo is the nation's capital and largest city, followed by Yokohama, Osaka, Nagoya, Sapporo, Fukuoka, Kobe, and Kyoto.

Japan has been inhabited since the Upper Paleolithic period (30,000 BC). Between the fourth and ninth centuries, the kingdoms of Japan became unified under an emperor and the imperial court based in Heian-kyo. Beginning in the 12th century, political power was held by a series of military dictators (shogun) and feudal lords (daimyo), and enforced by a class of warrior nobility (samurai). After a century-long period of civil war, the country was reunified in 1603 under the Tokugawa shogunate, which enacted an isolationist foreign policy.

In 1854, a United States fleet forced Japan to open trade to the West, which led to the end of the shogunate and the restoration of imperial power in 1868. In the Meiji period, the Empire of Japan adopted a Western-modeled constitution, and pursued a program of industrialization and modernization. Amidst a rise in militarism and overseas colonization, Japan invaded China in 1937 and entered World War II as an Axis power in 1941. After suffering defeat in the Pacific War and two atomic bombings, Japan surrendered in 1945 and came under a seven-year Allied occupation, during which it adopted a new constitution.

Japan has 47 prefectures

  • Japan is divided into 47 administrative prefectures and eight traditional regions.
  • Under the 1947 constitution, Japan has maintained a unitary parliamentary constitutional monarchy with a bicameral legislature, the National Diet.
  • Japan is a developed country and a great power, with one of the largest economies by nominal GDP.
  • Japan has renounced its right to declare war, though it maintains a Self-Defense Force that ranks as one of the world's strongest militaries.
  • A global leader in the automotive, robotics, and electronics industries, the country has made significant contributions to science and technology, and is one of the world's largest exporters and importers.
  • It is part of multiple major international and intergovernmental institutions.
  • Japan has over 125 million inhabitants and is the 11th most populous country in the world, as well as one of the most densely populated.
  • About three-fourths of the country's terrain is mountainous, concentrating its highly urbanized population on narrow coastal plains.
  • The Greater Tokyo Area is the most populous metropolitan area in the world.
  • Japan has the world's highest life expectancy, although it is experiencing a population decline due to its very low birth rate.
  • Japan comprises 14,125 islands extending along the Pacific coast of Asia. The country's five main islands, from north to south, are Hokkaido, Honshu, Shikoku, Kyushu and Okinawa.
  • The Japanese archipelago is 67% forests and 14% agricultural.
  • Japan is substantially prone to earthquakes, tsunami and volcanic eruptions because of its location along the Pacific Ring of Fire.
  • The climate of Japan is predominantly temperate but varies greatly from north to south.
  • Japan is a unitary state and constitutional monarchy in which the power of the Emperor is limited to a ceremonial role. Executive power is instead wielded by the Prime Minister of Japan and his Cabinet, whose sovereignty is vested in the Japanese people. Naruhito is the Emperor of Japan, having succeeded his father Akihito upon his accession to the Chrysanthemum Throne in 2019.
  • Japan is the second-highest-ranked Asian country in the 2022 Global Peace Index, after Singapore. It spent 1% of its total GDP on its defense budget in 2020, and maintained the tenth-largest military budget in the world in 2022.
  • Japan has the world's fourth-largest economy by nominal GDP, after that of the United States, China and Germany; and the fourth-largest economy by PPP. As of 2021, Japan's labor force is the world's eighth-largest, consisting of over 68.6 million workers. As of 2022, Japan has a low unemployment rate of around 2.6%. Its poverty rate is the second highest among the G7 nations, and exceeds 15.7% of the population. Japan has the highest ratio of public debt to GDP among advanced economies, with national debt estimated at 248% relative to GDP as of 2022. The Japanese yen is the world's third-largest reserve currency after the US dollar and the euro.
  • Japan was the world's fifth-largest exporter and fourth-largest importer in 2022. Its main exports are motor vehicles, iron and steel products, semiconductors, and auto parts. Japan's main imports are machinery and equipment, fossil fuels, foodstuffs, chemicals, and raw materials for its industries.
  • Japan maintains one of the world's largest fishing fleets and accounts for nearly 15% of the global catch. Japan ranked seventh in the world in tonnage of fish caught in 2016.
  • Japan is the third-largest automobile producer in the world as of 2022 and is home to Toyota, the world's largest automobile company by vehicle production. Quantitatively, Japan was the world's largest exporter of cars in 2021, though it was overtaken by China in early 2023.
  • Once considered the strongest in the world, the Japanese consumer electronics industry is in a state of decline as regional competition arises in neighboring East Asian countries such as South Korea and China. However, Japan's video game sector remains a major industry.
  • Japan has a population of almost 125 million, of which nearly 122 million are Japanese nationals (2022 estimates).
  • Japan is the world's fastest aging country and has the highest proportion of elderly citizens of any country, comprising one-third of its total population; this is the result of a post–World War II baby boom, which was followed by an increase in life expectancy and a decrease in birth rates. Japan has a total fertility rate of 1.4, which is below the replacement rate of 2.1, and is among the world's lowest; it has a median age of 48.4, the highest in the world. As of 2020, over 28.7 percent of the population is over 65, or more than one in four out of the Japanese population.

Christianity was first introduced into Japan by Jesuit missions starting in 1549. Today, 1% to 1.5% of the population are Christians. Throughout the latest century, Western customs originally related to Christianity (including Western style weddings, Valentine's Day and Christmas) have become popular as secular customs among many Japanese.

  • The Japanese language is Japan's de facto national language and the primary written and spoken language of most people in the country. Japanese writing uses kanji (Chinese characters) and two sets of kana (syllabaries based on cursive script and radicals used by kanji), as well as the Latin alphabet and Arabic numerals. English has taken a major role in Japan as a business and international link language.
  • Traditional Japanese arts include crafts such as ceramics, textiles, lacquerware, swords and dolls; performances of bunraku, kabuki, noh, dance, and rakugo; and other practices, the tea ceremony, ikebana, martial arts, calligraphy, origami, onsen, Geisha and games.
  • Japanese cuisine offers a vast array of regional specialties that use traditional recipes and local ingredients. Seafood and Japanese rice or noodles are traditional staples. Japanese curry, since its introduction to Japan from British India, is so widely consumed that it can be termed a national dish, alongside ramen and sushi. Traditional Japanese sweets are known as wagashi. Ingredients such as red bean paste and mochi are used. More modern-day tastes include green tea ice cream.
  • Popular Japanese beverages include sake, which is a brewed rice beverage that typically contains 14–17% alcohol and is made by multiple fermentation of rice. Beer has been brewed in Japan since the late 17th century. Green tea is produced in Japan and prepared in forms such as matcha, used in the Japanese tea ceremony.
  • Traditionally, sumo is considered Japan's national sport. Japanese martial arts such as judo and kendo are taught as part of the compulsory junior high school curriculum. Baseball is the most popular sport in the country. In motorsport, Japanese automotive manufacturers have been successful in multiple different categories, with titles and victories in series such as Formula One, MotoGP, and the World Rally Championship. Drivers from Japan have victories at the Indianapolis 500 and the 24 Hours of Le Mans as well as podium finishes in Formula One, in addition to success in domestic championships.

Japan is considered a cultural superpower as the culture of Japan is well known around the world, including its art, cuisine, film, music, and popular culture, which encompasses prominent manga, anime, and video game industries.

EtymologyThe name Japan is based on Chinese pronunciations of Nippon or Nihon and was introduced to European languages through early trade. In the 13th century, Marco Polo recorded the early Mandarin or Wu Chinese pronunciation of Cipangu. The old Malay name for Japan, Japang or Japun, was borrowed from a southern coastal Chinese dialect and encountered by Portuguese traders in Southeast Asia, who brought the word to Europe in the early 16th century. The first version of the name in English appears in a book published in 1577, which spelled the name as Giapan in a translation of a 1565 Portuguese letter.

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