Tatsuro Yamashita Brings This Kind of Magic to Christmas

  • Post authorChristmas is today! What are your plans for this Christmas?
  • Here in Japan, life goes on as normal. I have to work on Christmas Day with a doctor’s appointment right after work. I might eat something special for Christmas dinner, but I don’t know. It is also payday at Christmas. So, my landlord, utilities, and the government will get a nice present on Christmas in the form of rent money and bills.

Although people in Japan don’t get a day off as the Western world does for Christmas, it still celebrated here with different traditions. There are many modern Japanese Christmas tunes as well. I have talked about two in the recent Battle of the Songs (“Winter Song” and “Christmas Carol no Koro ni wa”). I want to talk about one more today: Tatsuro Yamashita’s “Christmas Eve”.

Christmas in Japan

Christmas here is more of a lover’s holiday. Couples will have a fancy dinner at a restaurant and enjoy illuminations display. They might even eat Christmas cake that is made with strawberries, shortcake, and whip cream. At the end of the night, lovers will exchange presents with each other.

But, there are celebrations with the family, especially ones with children. Families will eat fried chicken and Christmas cake for dinner. Children receive a present or two from Santa. They wouldn’t get much for Christmas as they will get money on New Year’s from their parents, grandparents, and other relatives. Most children here in Nagoya are off from school for Winter Break but don’t really do anything special on Christmas.

Now you wonder why do Japanese eat fried chicken on Christmas Day? Well, there is a belief that Americans eat fried chicken during the holiday season. I have been asked countless times if I eat fried chicken on Christmas. Many surprised when I said no, I eat turkey or ham. However, the main culprit of having fried chicken at Christmas is KFC. In the 1970s, the chicken company had a simple campaign: “Christmas is Kentucky”. The campaign was so successful that it created a new Christmas tradition.

Christmas is more of a modern celebration as people started to celebrated from the 1970s. Now, you can find Christmas trees in houses, decorations all over, and some lights strung up around people’s homes. You can also find Christmas foods, drinks, and snacks at various restaurants, cafes, and food stores. I was suprised that Kaldi (a coffee and import shop) had mince pies added in their Christmas selection this year.

“Christmas Eve”: A Magical Christmas Tune from Tatsuro Yamashita

As Christmas is more of a modern celebration here in Japan, so is Japanese Christmas tunes. One of the first modern Christmas tunes from Japan is Tatsuro Yamashita’s “Christmas Eve”. It was released in December 1983 with Yamashita composing the music and writing the lyrics. When it was originally released, it reached #44 on the Oricon charts but people soon forgot about the tune.

Until 1988.

When JR Tokai (Japan Railways Tokai Branch) wanted to promote their new service “X`MAS EXPRESS” for their Shinkansen service in the late 80s, they chose “Christmas Eve” to be the theme for their campaign. From 1988 to 1992, the tune was used in various commercials promoting the Shinkansen service. Due to the commercials’ popularity, the single re-entered the charts as #1 in late 1989 and early 1990. “X`MAS EXPRESS” and “Christmas Eve” also sparked a new Christmas tradition in Japan as Christmas is a holiday for lovers.

Tatsuro Yamashita’s tune now became an iconic Christmas song in Japan. It has been re-released in various formats throughout the years. The song also re-enters the charts from time to time. And it has been used in various other commercials for other companies like phone, beauty, and etc.

“Christmas Eve” is Magical?

So, why is “Christmas Eve” so magical?

Tatsuro Yamashita

One of the factors why “Christmas Eve” is so magical is because of the mood. It captures the mood of the season with the instrumentation and lyrics. The Christmasy feel can be heard throughout with the bells, the drum kit, and the guitar solo in the beginning. And although Tatsuro Yamashita paints a picture of a romantic Christmas with the lyrics, it still feels like a Christmas song with the mentions of various Christmas items or motifs.

Tatsuro Yamashita’s “Christmas Eve” is a modern Christmas tune that brings magic during the season. Maybe since I always associate the tune with the JR Christmas Express commercials. But, how about my readers? What do you think: Is “Christmas Eve” truly magical? Let me know in the comments below!

Here is an English version that Yamashita released in 1993:

Lyrics for Tetsuro Yamashita’s “Christmas Eve”

Here is an English translation of the lyrics, thanks to Musicbox Trans:

The rain late at night will
probably change into snow.
Silent night, holy night…

You definitely aren’t coming;
it’s a Christmas Eve all alone.
Silent night, holy night…

It seems the feelings I hid deep in my heart
will not come true.

Certainly tonight
I can say what I felt.
Silent night, holy night…

My feelings for you are still burning.
It keeps snowing into the night.

The Christmas tree on the street corner
is sparkling silver.
Silent night, holy night…