Across the world, Christmas is a time of giving, connection and love.
In Japan, while New Years is reserved for family, Christmas is a time for friends and couples to celebrate together. December 24th is considered one of the most romantic nights of the year, on a par with Valentine’s Day. With thoughts of being with a true love often on the mind of many in the run up to Christmas, often nudging various singles into contacting a marriage agency to get help finding that perfect partner. While the Kansai region doesn’t often experience a white Christmas, Osaka and Kobe in particular, lean into the frivolity and fun of the season with Christmas markets, illuminations and other winter themed activities for couples to enjoy. Fear not, those outside the big centres! Events occur in other areas of Kansai too. Read on for a list of the best and the brightest spots around.
Osaka knows how to shine. Visual spectacles dot the city, glamming up the hubs of Namba and Umeda. Sparkling lights stretch along kilometres of the Midosuji to the art island of Nakanoshima. Visiting an illumination event is regularly cited as the number one must do activity for date nights around Christmas, so wrap up warmly and go see some Christmas lights!
Encrusted trees, glowing tunnels and an 18 metre shimmering blue waterfall of lights. The level of beauty on display at Namba Parks is incredibly high for its zero yen entry fee. The illuminations are for winter and not Christmas dependent, allowing for a date any time between November and late February. The rooftop garden on Level 8 is rumoured to be a quieter dating area with benches and the ability to bring your own food. So pack your knee rugs and snuggle in to enjoy the lights.
Midosuji and Nakanoshima
A good Christmas market, filled with food and a cosy atmosphere, leans into the mystique the holiday holds in Japan, and can feel like a portal into another world. Consider visiting Christmas Markets held in nearby Kobe, or even taking the further trek south to find a slice of Europe within Wakayama.
Kobe Christmas Market at Nunobiki
Festa De Luce Wakayama
Port Europa is a favourite of cosplayers across Kansai thanks to its Italian styled buildings and plaza. Christmas lights only add to the charm and over the winter season, this pocket-sized theme park lights up with parades, floating lantern releases, and even fireworks! The food part of the Christmas market is only on the weekends, and features less traditional fare, like oden, taco rice and pizza. However, with a lower price point for entry than other amusement parks, and less density to the crowds, this might be a nice way to cap off a day trip down south.
Another activity high on the list for romantic dates is ice-skating. With excellent opportunities for laughter and natural physical interaction while supporting each other, it’s an easy way to break the ice (pun intended) on early dates. From the sublimely romantic Umeda Tsurun Tsurun rink, to a more pragmatic but larger option in Kyoto, here are some spots to skate.
Umeda Tsurun Tsurun
Christmas In Japan
While Christmas isn’t a traditional holiday in Japan, the country has taken on the celebration with enthusiasm. Christmas trees sprout up around department stores and plazas. Restaurants provide exclusive Christmas courses, though many prefer the conventional KFC Christmas dinner. Presents are exchanged between friends and those who hold a special place in the heart.
Christmas is a time for true human connection and generosity of spirit, beyond materialism. Spending time with the one you love can be as simple as a dinner at home with a streaming service of choice. Or as organized as travelling internationally to meet up with your potential life partner, after dating long distance for much of the year. The words we use and the actions we make in showing our appreciation to others, is what the holiday is truly about. May everyone stay safe and well during the winter season, and look forward to a happy and prosperous new year filled with love and healthy relationships.