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  • Writer's pictureTania Wee


Christmas is just around the corner and no one is more excited about it than Japan. Why Japan? Why would a country that is primarily Buddhist and Shinto practitioners be so excited over a Christian religion? One word. Or rather three letters: KFC.

Around this time of the year, flocks of Japanese people will head down to their local KFC to pick up their pre-ordered buckets of fried chicken goodness. All in all, KFC Japan sells approximately 300,000 party barrels and 800,000 Christmas packs during this peak season, which accounts for about a third of the chain’s yearly sales in Japan. And it’s not as simple as just turning up on Christmas Day and claiming your chicken dinner or having Grabfood deliver it to our doorsteps like we do in Malaysia. Every year, there are lines out the door, starting on December 23, and Christmas Eve is the most popular date – about ten times busier than normal.

As the original story went, KFC became a huge thing in Japan thanks to Takeshi Okawara, the first KFC manager in Japan n 1970. It was said that Okawara dreamed up the idea of a party barrel for Christmas after overhearing the couple of expat tourists talking about missing turkey for Christmas. That sparked a light bulb over his head and thus began a Christmas tradition that continued to strive till this day.

Of course, we've also heard of a more likely version where Okawara whose business was on the verge of bankrupt stumbled upon the idea of associating Christmas with KFC when he was asked to give out fried chicken as Santa Claus at a kindergarten Christmas party.

Knowing his business was on the line, however, he went above and beyond the call of duty. With the spirit of Colonel Sanders and Santa-san wrapped in one, he stole the show. “I started dancing, holding the barrel of chicken. ‘Kentucky Christmas, Kentucky Christmas, Happy Happy,’ like that,” he told Household Name. “I made up a song, and danced around. Kids liked it.

From there, he began marketing his Party Barrel as a means of celebrating the holiday with fried chicken as a substitute for turkey. In 1974, KFC kicked off a nationwide marketing plan,

Kurisumasu ni wa Kentakkii, or Kentucky for Christmas and the rest as they say is history. Okawara himself climbed through the company ranks and served as president and CEO of Kentucky Fried Chicken Japan from 1984 to 2002. Of course, KFC will either confirm or deny this story.

Till this day KFC and Christmas go hand-in-hand in Japan and it doesn't seem like the trend is likely to slow down anytime soon. Especially with this cooking hack that has been going around the net.

And on that note, Merry Christmas!

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