In case you thought we’d written enough about KFC this Christmas… we haven’t. This time, however, we’re not talking about the scented yule log they’ve released in America. This time, we’re talking about Japan, and the traditional holiday feast… of Kentucky Fried Chicken.
This time, Japan doesn’t really hold much blame for the strangeness, though. This is all on KFC, and a marketing department that is nothing short of brilliant.
From Smithsonian Magazine:
When a group of foreigners couldn’t find turkey on Christmas day and opted for fried chicken instead, the company saw this as a prime commercial opportunity and launched its first Christmas meal that year: Chicken and wine for
8342,920 yen($10)—pretty pricey for the mid-seventies. Today the christmas chicken dinner (which now boasts cake and champagne) goes for about 3,336 yen ($40).
The first effort began in 1970 and expanded into a national campaign in 1974. It was called “Kurisumasu ni wa kentakkii!” (Kentucky for Christmas!) and it resonated with a country that was only about 1% Christian but which had embraced the Christmas holiday. Absent most of the usual religious trappings, there was a vacancy for new traditions. KFC’s marketing campaign stepped into that void, and what might have been a short-lived boost in sales has turned into a national event.
The BBC provides even greater detail on those first few years of Kentucky Fried Christmas:
According to KFC Japan spokeswoman Motoichi Nakatani, it started thanks to Takeshi Okawara, the manager of the first KFC in the country. Shortly after it opened in 1970, Okawara woke up at midnight and jotted down an idea that came to him in a dream: a “party barrel” to be sold on Christmas.
Okawara dreamed up the idea after overhearing a couple of foreigners in his store talk about how they missed having turkey for Christmas, according to Nakatani.BBC
Today, celebrants are encouraged to order their KFC party barrels weeks in advance. Those who do not typically find themselves in long lines awaiting the meal to bring back to their family… lines lasting hours at fast-food restaurants throughout the country.
How much of a hold does the chain have in the country? Let’s take a look at a clip from a popular 1980s humor anime, Project A-Ko:
Question of the night: What is the main course (or main courses) at your holiday dinner?