After Halloween, shopping centers in Hiroshima drip with Christmas decorations and it becomes nigh impossible to avoid the music of the season. Christmas in Hiroshima is a big deal.
Christmas in Japan is all about the build up, and there is a nice festival atmosphere for the the first 3 weeks of December and some Christmassy events. The Christmas season coincides with the annual Dreamination illuminations which line Peace Boulevard.
On weekends in December, the winter illuminations at the City Botanical Gardens in the hills of Itsukaichi, include a very pretty giant Christmas tree installation.
Fancy tree-hunters in the city should head to Pacela shopping center and the north side of Hiroshima Station, or check out the tree in Aeon Mall Fuchu.
Local transport company Hiroden lay on a couple of twinkling trams which make their way through the city daily, sometimes complete with a waving Santa.
This year, the usual Christmas tram is joined by a one wrapped in ads for Frozen 2. It is possible to charter these trams, but the application process is ridiculously complex. On Christmas Eve, Santa will get off the tram at Nishi Hiroshima (17:05-17:25), Yokogawa (18:00-18:20) and Hiroshima (19:15-19:25) to dish out candy to kids (elementary school age and younger only).
If you really want to ride, your best bet may be to take part in the stamp rally event to be held at the 3-day German Christmas Market at Urban View Grand Tower (across from the Prefectural Art Museum and Shukkeien Garden). It’s a bit complex and you’ll have to hit two or three locations to qualify for the draw each afternoon to get a chance to to ride along the Hakushima Line. If you give it a go, please let us know how you get on!
Closer to actual Christmas, Hiroshima Jogakuin gets everyone in the mood with a free performance of Handel’s Messiah, held on December 22 this year.
When it comes to food, it’s common for families to exchange Christmas presents and tuck into a bucket of KFC (expect long lines and ‘The Colonel’ to be dressed as Santa), followed by a store bought strawberry shortcake.
This all tends to happen on Christmas Eve, however. December 24 is also the nation’s hottest date night and restaurants and hotels are packed with amorous couples. At close of business, however, the Santas are replaced with the more subtle Japanese New Year’s decorations and December 25 is a normal workday.
This can be disorientating for displaced Xmas-lovers. Bars and eateries popular with expats are a good bet for a bit of festive spirit. Molly Malone’s serves special dinners on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.
The Catholic cathedral in Nobori-cho holds an English midnight mass and an English 7pm on Christmas Day (also a mass in Japanese at 10am). Mitaki Green Chapel usually has a midnight candle service on Christmas Eve.