3 Japanese Songs to Celebrate Christmas

Posted: 15th Dec 2023

Christmas is nearly upon us!

While New Year (お正月 - o-shōgatsu) is the main event at this time of year in Japan, you will still come across plenty of reminders of Christmas - be it elaborate decorations in local shopping malls, strawberry-topped Christmas cakes in supermarkets or the classic barrage of Christmas music pretty much anywhere you go.

This is where today's post comes in.

If you're feeling a bit sick of the constant rotation of the same old Christmas tunes, why not mix it up with some Japanese songs?

Below you'll find a mini list of three songs I reckon you might enjoy, the first of which is aimed at kids, but the last two of which fall firmly into the genre of romantic Christmas J-pop. (Spoiler: I've saved the best till last!)

メリークリ!(merii kuri*)

*Short for メリー・クリスマス (merii kurisumasu): Merry Christmas

#1: あわてんぼうのサンタクロース

  • Song name in hiragana: awatenbō no santa kurōzu
  • In English: Hasty Santa Claus

First up in today's list: as promised, this song is a top choice if you're looking for a Japanese Christmas song aimed at kids.

While Santa Claus is of course not Japanese in origin, he is still a well-known symbol of Christmas, with some people even making exceedingly cute 苺サンタ (ichigo Santa - strawberry Santas) as a Christmas food!

#2 クリスマスソング by back number

  • Song name in hiragana: kurisumasu songu
  • In English: Christmas Song

Next up is the first Japanese Christmas song I personally ever came across: the imaginatively named クリスマスソング (kurisumasu songu) by back number.

While this isn't my favourite back number song, it's still worth a listen if only to get a feel for the kind of themes that can come up in Japanese media around Christmas time.

In contrast to Christmas in parts of the world like Europe and North America being mostly about spending time with family, in Japan, the focus is more so on couples enjoying a romantic Christmas Eve together. While there is of course a plethora of romance-centred media in English too (Love Actually, anyone?), a big difference I experienced while living in Japan was the expectation that Christmas Eve should be a date night rather than a time to cosy up at home.

#3 クリスマス・イブ by Yamashita Tatsurō

  • Song name in hiragana: kurisumasu songu
  • In English: Christmas Song

Finally: my firm favourite in this list!

If you've not come across Yamashita Tatsurō before, you're in for a treat.

This release from December 1983 is an incredibly successful Christmas J-pop song, notably through its prominence in a series of TV ads run by JR Tōkai from 1988 to advertise their Christmas Express shinkansen (bullet train) as a means of travelling to see loved ones.

The following video features actress and model Hirose Suzu rather than Yamashita Tatsurō himself, but regardless, if you listen to just one song in this list, make it this one!


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