KFC, champagne and strawberry shortcake with frosting decorated in a swirling red and white motif. Japan didn’t really get the Christmas memo, but this writer for one applauds their enthusiasm in adopting this Western holiday. Nowhere does this enthusiasm shine more brightly, not taking the yearly illuminations into account, than in Japanese Christmas songs. From power ballads to love songs courting Santa’s attention, Japan isn’t shy to musically express their love for the season of giving.
Momoiro Clover Z, ‘Santa-San’
In this high-pace Japanese pop song from 2011, the idol group Memoiro Clover Z sings about their excitement for the season and the coming festivities before the whole affair devolves into chanting Santa’s name in hopes to fall into his good graces. Not yet a classic, but a energetic Christmas song representing all things quirky and kawaii in Japan. And the song’s 13 million views on YouTube double Nat King Cole’s version of “The Christmas Song.”
Crazy Ken Band, ‘I Hate Christmas! Only Joking’
Singer-songwriter Ken Yokoyama, frontman for the Crazy Ken Band, croons about his love-hate relationship with Christmas in this 2002 holiday anthem. Yokoyama expresses the band’s distaste for the holiday while highlighting the tiny things he may be a tiny bit excited for. The band apparently doesn’t hate Christmas that much since they recorded a version of Donny Hathaway’s “This Christmas,” which is way better than Chris Brown’s version.
L’Arc~en~Ciel, ‘Snow Footprints’
Fronted by TW’s April 2019 cover star Hyde, L’Arc-en-Ciel’s 2007 album Kiss ends with this power ballad and an upbeat festive tune titled “Hurry Xmas” (it’s still hardcore so long as you spell Christmas with an X). “Snow Footprints” focuses more on the love one can share at Christmastime and the struggle to find that love in the cold of winter.
Glay, ‘Time for Christmas’
Staying on the theme of a rocking Christmas, “Time for Christmas” by Glay is another seasonal headbanger featuring sleigh bells. The 2011 track, not as metal as some of Glay’s other songs, is about the preparation of returning to one’s hometown for Christmas – the melancholic feeling of nostalgia, reminiscing about Christmases before and spending the holiday with family and loved ones. “A very merry Christmas night; everything will be all right,” indeed.
Fukuyama Masaharu, ‘Kissin’ in the holy night’
As smooth as damn silk – this man’s voice is alarmingly beautiful. Armed with just a mic, and accompanied by an acoustic guitar, a string orchestra and all the Christmas spirit one can muster, Fukuyama Masaharu takes listeners on a journey with this, now, my new favorite Christmas song.
Yamashita Tatsuro, ‘Christmas Eve’
No list is complete without this absolute classic, played in stores and on every radio station from December 1 until well after Christmas. “Christmas Eve” by Yamanashita Tatsuro is comparable to “Silent Night” in how well-known it is in Japan. Similar to Wham!’s “Last Christmas,” it’s a song about lost love and the reminiscing of past Christmases where said love was had. The song was written by Yamanashita as a way to prove he could create more than just upbeat, joy-filled music. Perhaps the endeavor was too successful, as today its one of his most famous songs, having been released on multiple albums and even rewritten and recorded in English. A beautiful, if not a little sad, Christmas song.