December 17, 2009
The Kentucky Connection
Originally published on metropolis.co.jp on December 2009
It’s a question that has troubled the greatest minds for decades: how did Christmas in Japan become synonymous with a fast food joint? Foreigners may laugh at the queues that form outside branches of KFC on December 24, or the people reserving their buckets of chicken months in advance, but it turns out that we’ve only got ourselves to blame. The tradition of eating KFC at Christmas dates back to the early ’70s, when an expat customer at the chain’s Aoyama store observed that, in a land bereft of Yuletide turkey, fried chicken was the next best thing. The store’s canny manager was paying attention and passed word on to the higher-ups, leading the company to launch its ludicrously successful “Kurisumasu ni wa kentakkii!” (Kentucky for Christmas!) campaign in 1974. Or at least, that’s what the company says on its website: it might just be because Colonel Sanders looks like Father Christmas.