You could probably say that we Japanese are generally not very strict when it comes to religion. Most Japanese go to Shinto shrines or Buddhist temples on New Year’s, many couples have weddings at churches regardless of their religion, and a majority of funerals in Japan are conducted in a Buddhist style. And of course, we can’t forget one of the biggest holidays of the year, Christmas, which the Japanese most definitely celebrate in a huge, though not Christian, way. And now that we’re into November, it won’t be long before we’re hearing “Jingle Bells” or “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer” at every store we step into.
That means we’ll soon have to start thinking about Christmas presents. (Yikes!) So, in a country that is predominantly apathetic towards religion, do many Japanese people look forward to Christmas, and how much do they expect to spend on presents? NetMile, a Japanese internet research and shopping points program company, conducted a poll to find out, and the results were recently announced.
NetMile surveyed 500 men and women in their 20s to 60s from among their 2.58 million registered users on their Christmas plans. In Japan, Christmas tends to be more about couples going out to a fancy dinner or staying at a luxurious hotel and buying each other expensive presents (and yes, we can’t forget Kentucky Fried Chicken, which for some reason is a big hit in Japan at Christmas every year), than about families getting together or going to church. The results of the poll did indicate, however, that people who had spouses, children or grandchildren to celebrate Christmas with looked forward significantly more to the holiday than those who didn’t.
In general, 44.4% of the people polled said that they look forward to Christmas (either moderately or very much) each year, while 55.6% said they didn’t particularly look forward to the Holiday Season. Hmm, too bad a majority of the people don’t feel excited about Christmas. Of the people who answered that they look forward to Christmas, interestingly enough, 39.2% were men and 60.8% were women
Based on marital status, 68.9% of people looking forward to Christmas were married, while 31.1% were single. The difference was even more profound in people who said they look forward to Christmas not just moderately but “very much”, of which 78.7% were married and 21.3% were single. Even looking at a particular age group, women in their 20s for example, there was again a significant difference, with 69.2% of those who answered they look forward to Christmas being married and 40.5% being single.
It seems the presence of children may also make a difference, but perhaps not as much as marital status. Of the people who said they look forward to Christmas, 55.4% had children and 44.6% didn’t. The age of the children may also be a factor, as a majority of people with children in junior high school or younger (which in Japan would be about 15 years old and below) answered that they look forward to the holiday, but less than half of those with children over junior high school age said they look forward to Christmas.
What about grandchildren? 48.1% of the people with grandchildren answered that they look forward to Christmas, compared to 44.0% for people without children, so the difference was not too significant, at least in this poll.
People who celebrate Christmas multiple times (at parties, dinners etc.) also tended to look forward to the holiday festivities, which we guess is not surprising. 20% of the people surveyed said they celebrated Christmas twice or more last year, of which 87.7% said they wanted to celebrate multiple times again this year, and of this 87.7%, a very high 84.3% answered that they usually look forward to Christmas with happy anticipation.
But now, we get down to the nitty gritty — present shopping. According to the survey, 43.8% of the people polled had plans to buy Christmas presents while a surprisingly high 56.3% said they had no plans to get any presents for anyone. Of the people with plans to purchase Christmas gifts, 74.4% said they look forward to Christmas.
And just how many presents are these people planning to buy and at what price? Their answers indicated that they will be buying an average of 2.3 gifts, with 39.2% buying just one, and 14.6% with plans to buy 4 or more gifts. Further, 51.3% of the people buying presents planned to spend less than 5,000yen ($62.50) on each gift.
But the price of gifts can obviously change depending on who the gift is for. The most common price range for a gift to a boyfriend/girlfriend was 10,000yen – under 15,000yen ($125 – under $187.50), for a gift to a spouse, 5,000yen – under 10,000yen ($62.50 – under $125), and for other family members and relatives, 2,500yen – under 5,000yen ($31.25 – under $62.50).
When we look at the price range of gifts to a boyfriend/girlfriend in more detail, however, an interesting observation can be made. While the highest percentage of men, 38.5%, spent 5,000yen – under 10,000yen, on presents for their girlfriends, and then 15,000yen or above, 5,000yen – under 10,000yen, and under 5,000yen in that order, the largest percentage of women (47.7%) buying presents for their boyfriends spent under 5,000yen, then 5,000yen – under 10,000yen, 10,000yen – under 15,000yen, and 15,000yen or above, in that order.
See a pattern here? Yes, men in Japan are planning to, and are probably expected to, spend more on Christmas presents than women, and perhaps this is reflected in the fact that a relatively high percentage of women with boyfriends and spouses, 60.7%, answered that they look forward to Christmas.
As may be expected, some male internet viewers have responded to this survey by commenting that this was brutally unfair (and even contrary to equality between the sexes). Well … maybe men just need to think of it as an opportunity to show a little extra appreciation and love to their precious girlfriends. (Or, sorry, is that still unfair to guys?)
So, that’s the story on some indicators of how the Japanese regard Christmas. How much are you willing to spend on a present for a loved one? And don’t just think of items you can buy — a dinner at a nice restaurant (okay, that would cost you as well, but hey, you’re expected to spend money anyway) may be just as appreciated.
Well, regardless of how many gifts you receive or purchase, we wish you happy Christmas shopping, and a very joyful Holiday Season with loved ones in the weeks to come. Oh, and we also hope Santa is nice to you and you don’t receive too many
crappy disappointing gifts!
Top Image by: Aine D