Christmas in Japan means couples canoodling over a romantic dinner, families splurging on fried chicken and Santa Claus around every corner – whether there are 5,000 of them running around Komazawa Olympic Park or 105 of them stamping bingo cards at Tokyo Station. Another favorite holiday tradition in Tokyo is the European-style Christmas market. Over the weekend, I traveled to Yokohama to pay a visit to the annual Christmas market held at the iconic Red Brick Warehouse. Here, the holiday spirit was in abundance, as were the “authentic” European Christmas experiences.

Parents & Hot Wine

It was crowded, as Yokohama’s port side often is on Sundays. There were many adorable pets walking alongside their owners and parents struggling to keep their children at arm’s reach. “I can’t image how stressful it might be to manage two or three kindergartners in a crowd this size,” I thought. Considering many couples did so with cups of hot wine in hand, however, it mustn’t be too much work, right?

Seafood & Churros

Many of Tokyo’s Christmas markets claim to be authentically German, and the Yokohama market is no different. At every kiosk, you can order a wide variety of sausages and beer, but you’ll also find a few more treats that aren’t particularly associated with the holiday season.

Parents might order churros with their hot wine to comfort their kids. There was also a section along the seashore with a variety of seafood stands on the left and artisanal kiosks on the right that sold Russian dolls and eerie illustrations of humanoid monsters.

So. Much. Cheese.

Stopping by any Christmas market with an empty stomach is the way to enjoy the festivities to the fullest. Go for any kind of sausage they might have. Next, go for the cheese. Cheese casserole, cheesy American dogs and cheese with charcuterie. It’s not something I would eat walking up and down a parking lot, or outside under a crowded tent, but I’m not opposed to the experience.

Santa Claus in Questionable Scenarios

Take away the reindeer from the Santa Claus decorations and you’re left with a unique sight. In varying shapes and sizes, Santa Claus is definitely in town when you attend a Christmas market. See him waving hello to the young children, riding Harley Davidson motorcycles or crashing the party Mission Impossible-style.

A Modest Christmas Tree

For having had a few natural Christmas trees back home in Canada, I know they are hard to maintain. I appreciate that the Yokohama Christmas Market keeps it fresh by bringing in a real pine tree, but this year’s was a little bit thin. While it looked beautiful in the evening, it wasn’t that imposing in bright daylight, especially considering the massive cruise ship that stood at the neighboring dock.

Attending Christmas markets in Japan is definitely a great way to appreciate Tokyo’s mild winter weather. While illumination displays are now ubiquitous in Tokyo, hot wine and cheese are also becoming a tradition we can support.