The Top 20 Japanese Christmas Songs as Chosen by Japanese People

Japan's 10 most popular xmas songs

So there’s this idea that Japan somehow blindly takes Western culture. There is the cliche of “Big in Japan”. There are movies like “Lost In Translation”, showing washed up movie stars getting paid big bucks to do commercials there.

But the truth is that the vast majority of Japanese culture is produced domestically. 

In a 2014 survey of the most loved Christmas songs in Japan a whopping 17 of the top 20 were native creations. 

So the idea that a lot of people have that Japanese people are obsessed with Western culture at the expense of their own is completely wrong. 

That being said, three of the top 10 were songs from the West. 

Well, 2 ½ songs, when you consider that one of them was written by John Lennon and Yoko Ono.

The songs on the list also reflect the Japanese perspective on Christmas as being mostly a romantic holiday fo couples. 8 of the 10 songs on the list are romantic love songs. All but one of the songs written by Japanese artists are love songs, and all but one of these love songs are about heartbroken, not happy, lovers.

If these songs are anything to go by, Japanese people seem to be either lonely, or horny, at Christmas time.

I’ve provided the complete list below.

I’ve also put together my own top 10 list of my favorite Japanese Christmas Songs with a few songs that aren’t necessarily massive hits, but are amazing songs.

I’ve done a translation of a representative section from each of the top 10 xmas songs here, so you can get an idea of what each one is all about. 

Also, check out my full history of Japanese Christmas or look at Japanese Christmas today

Types of Japanese Christmas Song

In Japan, there are basically three types of songs that are commonly listened to at Christmas; original Japanese songs, foreign artist songs, and songs originally sung by foreign artists translated into Japanese and sung by Japanese artists.

Recent examples of translations that have been hits in Japan include Exile’s version of Wham’s Last Christmas.

You don’t have to spend much time in Japan around the festive season to figure out what the big tracks from overseas are – you hear them at supermarkets, restaurants and shopping centers. They are Last Christmas by Wham!, All I Want For Christmas Is by Mariah Carey and Happy Christmas (War is Over) / John Lennon & Yoko Ono.

These are quite different to the songs you tend to hear the most in the West, so why these tunes? 

The most popular songs, by Wham and Mariah Carey, are both songs about romantic Christmas love. This fits in well with the Japan narrative, where Christmas is mostly a holiday that is about couples going on dates. 

Christmas in Japan is more like a Valentine’s day, so these songs fit the bill nicely.

These are also songs of longing, or unrequited love. You tend to notice in a lot of the domestically produced Japanese songs that being lonely at Christmas is common. 

This makes sense when you think about the fact that there are probably more people not going out on hot dates to insanely romantic locations with their dream partner than there are people doing that. 

Loneliness is amplified for Japanese Christmas Eve.

This theme also fits in with a larger theme of setsunai 切ない art that exists in Japanese culture. Like the falling of the cherry blossom, Japanese people like to obsess over the fleetingness of nature, love and existence. Phew!

Put beside this Happy Christmas (War is Over) and you get an odd one out. Perhaps it is the fact that the Beatles were huge in Japan. Maybe it is that a Japanese person is a co-writer and performer of the song. Maybe it’s just a great tune…

In a survey of 12,427 people in Japan in 2014 conducted by “CD & DL Data” the most popular songs were chosen were:

1st place: Christmas Eve / Tatsuro Yamashita

Tatsuro Yamashita’s Christmas anthem has many of the tropes you would want from a Christmas song and more. It’s even got choral interludes of people singing Pachabel’s Canon style melodies. It makes an obvious reference to Silent night. It’s got bells, it’s got 80s synths.

The song lyrics reflect the Japanese emphasis that is placed on Christmas Eve as being the night for romance. I’ve written before about how Japan’s Christmas eve is close to the Western Valentine’s day.

The protagonist of the song is portrayed waiting in the street for his love to arrive, but knowing in his heart of hearts that they are never going to come. 

Oh, the Japanese obsession with ennui…



Silent night, Holy night

In the small hours of the night

I guess the rain will turn to ice

Silent night, Holy Night



Silent night, Holy night

I know that you won’t come

It’s going to be Christmas Eve alone

Silent night, Holy Night”

2nd place: Last Christmas / Wham!

Number two is Last Christmas by Wham. Most people will know this song. It is, of course, popular around the English Speaking world, but not number 2 popular, not like it is in Japan. There is something about the wistful feel of the song that suits the Japanese Christmas, with its emphasis on Christmas Eve romance, and correspondingly, heartache.

3rd place: All I Want For Christmas Is / Mariah Carey

The third most popular song is Mariah Carey’s All I want for Christmas is you. At number we three we get our first upbeat entry. But, interestingly, once more it’s a love song, and presumably as yet unrequited love song. Suits Japan to a tee.

4th place: Itsuka no Merry Christmas (A Merry Christmas Someday) / B’z

Number four is once again, a song of longing for love at Christmas. 

It is written from the perspective of a man reflecting on the happy times he has spent with a past lover, and reflecting on how often we fail to appreciate things until they are gone. 

いつまでも 手をつないでいられるような気がしていた

何もかもがきらめいて がむしゃらに夢を追いかけた

It felt like we could just keep on holding hands for ever

And all was glistening as we rushed headlong to a dream of better

喜びも悲しみも全部 分かちあう日がくること

想って微笑みあっている 色褪せたいつかのメリークリスマス

Of a day when joy and sorrow

Understood each other on the morrow

And the love and smiles between us

Fade into a Merry Christmas

5th place: Koibito ga Santa Claus (Your lover is your Santa Claus) / Yumi Matsutoya

When I first heard this song, I was a little taken aback. To do a first impression translation of the title Koibito ga Santa Claus, you could easily get something like My Lover is Santa Claus.

Now call me old fashioned, but isn’t getting it on with the man in red a little, you know, crossing a Christmassy red line?

But delve a little deeper and you find that a better translation would actually be something more like “Your lover is your Santa Claus”.

Maybe still a little cosplay-fantasy icky, but definitely a step up.







Once a trendy looking lady

sitting by me on the train

said on Christmas day

Santa’s coming to my house at eight

I said, ““Don’t you know that’s just a story

 from the picture books””

She just winked at me and told me

“You’ll get it when you grow up, take another look”.

6th place: kurisumasu carol no koro ni ha (By the time the Christmas Carols come) / Junichi Inagaki

To my eyes, Jinichi Inagaki looks like Japan’s answer to Rick Astley. Whether he has been as thoroughly meemafied by Gen Y and Z, I don’t know.

The words were written by legendary lyricist Yasushi Akimoto, mastermind behind the AKB48 group and it’s many franchises. 

Once again, it is a love song. Once again, the love between the protagonists seems to be experiencing some turbulence with the main thrust of the song being something like, “who knows what will be going on with us by the time that Christmas rolls around”.


君と僕の答えも きっと 出ているだろう


誰を愛してるのか 今は見えなくても

By the time they’re singing those carols again

We’ll know if we are lovers or friends

By the time they’re singing those carols again

We’ll know if our love is starting or ending.

7th place: Happy Christmas (War is over) / John Lennon & Yoko Ono


In 7th place is John and Yoko’s classic Happy Christmas (War is over).

The Beatles were huge in Japan. Beatlemania swept through the nation in 1966 when the band toured there and played at the Budokan stadium.

On the British TV show The Nation’s Favorite Christmas Song in 2012 this song came in at number 10. 

Perhaps the song is so popular in Japan because, of course, one of their countrymen had a hand in it’s making and sings one of the lead parts.

It’s certainly the only Protest song on the list. It’s also the only non-romantic love song.

8th place: Shiroi Koibitachi (The White Lovers) / Keisuke Kuwata

At number 8 we have a sugary ball of sentimental meaninglessness called Shiroi Koibitotachi, which translates as “The White Lovers”. 

The song is a vague love song that mixes garbled English with a bunch of fairly random Japanese quasi-Christmas cliches to make a soup of generalized romance vibes that sounds like it could mean something deep, but doesn’t.

The song even goes so far as to bard-style coin a new English word “foreverness”, which kind of sums up the ultimate meaninglessness of the whole song.

“White Lovers” seems to be a reference to, perhaps, lovers hooking up in the snow. The fact that Keisuke didn’t have the self awareness to realise that it sounds like some weird racial reference shows how misguided the whole thing is.

That being said, the Japanese people love it, so what would I know?

今宵涙こらえて奏でる 愛の serenade



このときめきを celebrate

ひとり泣き濡れた夜に white love

I would translate that but it would be too painful to bear, so let’s move on.

9th place: Meri Kuri (Merry Christmas) / BoA


Japanese people love reducing words down to four sounds, for easy pronunciation. Merry Christmas when spoken in a Japanese as メリークリスマス has a mouth-cripling seven sounds, and is so widely used that it is a natural candidate for the linguistic chop. 

Boa picked up on this colloquial coining of a Japanese version of “Merry Christmas” as “meri-kuri” and put it in a song. Genius. 

The song is an out and out love song, purely expressing the joy of a person happily in love with another. In fact, this is the only love song on the list where the protagonist is not experiencing heart-ache.

The song centres quite cleverly around the concept of snow, as a metaphor for love, being the true gift of Christmas, with the last line of each verse paying homage to the icy white stuff:


付き合ってくれて ねぇありがとう


抱きしめなさいと 雪は降るの

I’ve been wanting to tell you for so long,

Thankyou for being with me.

The drifting snow sings the song

Hold your love strong and complete”

10th place: Suteki Na Holiday (A Wonderful Holiday) / Mariya Takeuchi

This one is perhaps the closest to what we consider a standard, Western cheerful Christmas song. It is also the only non-romantic love song that features on the list.

It is written from the perspective of a mother to her child, expressing the anticipation of a magical Christmas day. 

すやすやと眠る 子供達の手に

抱かれたテディベアも もう待ちきれない


悲しかった出来事を 消し去るように

さあ パジャマを脱いだら 出かけよう

少しずつ白くなる 街路樹を駆け抜けて

華やぎ始めた 街は急ぎ足

贈り物決まる頃 黄昏れてく

かじかんだ指を ママが温めるね

“Even the teddy bears that the children cuddle quietly in their sleep

Can hardly wait!

Christmas is coming again this year

To erase the sad events

We’ll take off our pajamas and head out

Run through the roadside trees that are gradually turning white

The city is all of a sudden splendorous

By the time we’ve decided on the presents, it will be twilight

And Mom will warm your icy-cold fingers”

It certainly expresses a feeling that us Westerners can easily understand!

11th place: Silent Eve / Midori Karashima

12th place: Hurry Xmas / L’Arc-en-Ciel


14th place: Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence / Ryuichi Sakamoto


16th place: Merry Christmas / BUMP OF CHICKEN

17th place: WISH / Arashi

18th place: Cinderella Christmas / KinKi Kids

19th place: Santa-san Santa / Momoiro Clover Z

20th place: White Love / SPEED

20th place: Chicken Rice / Masatoshi Hamada and Noriyuki Makihara

Japanese Christmas Songs Q&A

Does Japan have Christmas songs?

Yes, Japan has a long tradition of creating its own native Christmas songs, as well as listening to Christmas songs from abroad. In a 2014 survey of the most popular Christmas songs in Japan, 7 were original Japanese songs, and 3 were foreign imports. 

The top five were:

1st place: Christmas Eve / Tatsuro Yamashita

2nd place: Last Christmas / Wham!

3rd place: All I Want For Christmas Is / Mariah Carey

4th place: Itsuka no Merry Christmas (A Merry Christmas Someday) / B’z

5th place: Koibito ga Santa Claus (Your lover is your Santa Claus) / Yumi Matsutoya

What is a famous Christmas carol or saying from Japan?

The words of Japan’s most famous song actually reference some of the sayings from one the West’s most famous carols “Silent Night”. The song, Tatsuro Yamashita’s Christmas Eve, give the words a bit of lonesome twist thought:

“In the small hours of the night

I guess the rain will turn to snow

Silent night, Holy Night

I know you won’t come

It’s going to be a lonely Christmas Eve

Silent night, Holy Night”

What are some good Japanese Christmas presents?

Glad you asked. See our list of Japanese gifts, Japanese gifts for him, Japanese gifts for her or Japanese gifts for sushi lovers.