- 1. Ikebana & floral influenced Japanese Christmas Trees
- 2. Cherry Blossom Sakura Christmas Trees
- 3. Bonsai Christmas Trees
- 4. Kawaii Cute Japanese Christmas Trees
- 5. Origami Japanese Christmas Trees
- 6. Bamboo Japanese Christmas Trees
- 7. Lantern Japanese Christmas Trees
- 8. Scroll with Japanese Christmas Tree
- 9. Lighting & Illuminated Japanese Christmas Trees
- 10. Traditional Decoration Japanese Christmas Trees
- 12. Shinto influenced Japanese Christmas Trees
- 13. Rough Bottomed Japanese Christmas Trees
- How Old Is Japan’s Christmas Tree Tradition?
- What was the first Christmas Tree in Japan?
- Who put up the first Christmas Tree in Japan?
- Who was the first Japanese person to put up a Christmas Tree in Japan?
- How did the Christmas Tree tradition spread in Japan?
- Where can I buy Japanese Christmas Tree Items and presents?
- In Conclusion
Japan is renowned for its aesthetic sensibilities. The Japanese have the knack for taking an existing Western tradition and making it better.
The Christmas Tree is no exception.
I’ve collected some of the most interesting examples of Japanese Christmas Trees, or creations that have at least been influenced by Japanese culture in some way.
Some of the ideas combine Japanese and Western culture in ways that, perhaps, you would be able to envisage. Some are like you would never have expected.
For example, given Japan’s origami & decorative paper culture, it makes sense that some of these creations would find their way onto the tree.
Other elements, such as Japanese lanterns and Japanese lighting, bonsai, fans, scrolls, bonsai, sakura and shinto items have all contributed to the Japanese Christmas Tree and to the larger flavor of Christmas in Japan.
Here is a list of 13 Christmas tree ideas and more than 40 examples that illustrate to whet your appetite:
1. Ikebana & floral influenced Japanese Christmas Trees
Ikebana is the Japanese art of flower arrangement and has a long history.
The word “ikebana” means “living flower”. The general aim of this style of flower arrangement is to present flowers, branches and leaves as if they were somehow still alive and growing in a forest, glade or garden.
Often this style of flower arrangement chooses to emphasize nature “as it is” in a relatively unadorned way.
It is possible to blend this aesthetic with Christmas, as you can see in the examples below.
This Christmas tree blends the Japanese aesthetic of emphasising branches with the “white Christmas Tree” look.
Japanese flower arrangement has a beautiful tradition of simplistic, single flower arrangements called “Ichirin”. Here is an example of this being incorporated into the festive season.
Flowers and trees go together regularly in Japanese flower arrangement. Why not bring the flowers onto the Christmas Tree?
A Christmas tree doesn’t always have to have the traditional conical shape. Indeed, Ikebana is often all about preserving the shapes of nature.
It doesn’t get much more Japanese than white Camellias on the Christmas Tree. Red and white work well because they are both the Japanese national colors and Christmas colors.
Here’s a Japanese ikebana influenced Christmas Tree that proves that a Christmas Tree doesn’t have to be limited in shape, and can command a formidable space!
Japan is often about incorporating various elements of nature. Who would have thought ferns could work so well on a Christmas Tree?
The simplicity of nature matched with the handiwork of children. It doesn’t get more heartwarming than that.
2. Cherry Blossom Sakura Christmas Trees
What’s the most famous tree in Japan? Well the sakura cherry blossoms of course. Why not blossom up your Christmas?
3. Bonsai Christmas Trees
Running a close second to the sakura as the second most tree in Japan, the bonsai has long exerted a romantic influence on the West. It makes sense that people would experiment with incorporating this little, pocket-rocket tree into Noel.
You could, of course, dress up your tiny bonsai to go for a minimal xmas style.But there are other options too.
Here is an example of combining numerous bonsai, Voltron style, to create one ingenious mega-tree.
4. Kawaii Cute Japanese Christmas Trees
Japan is renowned for its kawaii cute culture.
This aesthetic inevitably finds its way onto the Christmas tree. If you are thinking about trying recreate some of this child-like look on your own tree some things you can try include:
Putting your plushies and fluffy character items on the tree
Animal Christmas anyone? Let’s get plushie!
Cuteness doesn’t have to be commercial. Look at some of the hand made Japanese Christmas Decorations in this tree.
Look closely at the tree above and you’ll notice that each of the snowmen is hugging a little Hello Kitty character. Aw, sweeeet.
5. Origami Japanese Christmas Trees
Making origami leaves you with beautiful paper items about the size of the palm of your hand. But what do you do with them once you are done?
One good option, after you’ve displayed them on your mantelpiece for a while, is to put a piece of string through them and turn them into a Japanese Christmas Decoration!
Here’s a deluxe version of an origami-bombed tree! From boxes, to balls to traditional strings of folded cranes (which are meant to bring luck and healing) this one shows what is possible.
Cranes flying through the xmas eaves.
Here’s an example, from a hotel display, of a (mostly) two dimensional christmas tree made entirely out of paper.
Various traditional Japanese elements on a Christmas tree, including origami.
6. Bamboo Japanese Christmas Trees
Nothing says “Asia” in arbory like bamboo. Japanese Christmas Trees often find ways to incorporate bamboo into their design or construction. Their natural color is well suited to Christmas, but they can also be painted to provide contrast.
This one is as much a pyramid as a Christmas Tree. It is the ultimate temple to the bamboo Christmas aesthetic.
Here’s an example of painted bamboo. The gold, in particular gives the sense of a luxurious, traditional Christmas, but in a new context.
What looks like rolls of Christmas Wrapping paper are actually cuts of bamboo presented in either their natural green or painted red. The effect is striking.
7. Lantern Japanese Christmas Trees
Festivals in Japan are intimately associated with lanterns, usually called chochin, in Japan. So it is only logical for them to be incorporated into Japanese Christmas traditions which have developed. Indeed, there is actually more than a 500 year history of Christmas in Japan.
Lanterns can be hung from the tree, placed around the tree, or even used to construct the tree itself.
Here is a wonderful example of lanterns placed together to make a Christmas tree shape. Talk about low maintenance. No sweeping up needles in January here.
Japanese shopping centres pull out all the stops with their Christmas Trees and Christmas displays. How long it took them to hang these several hundred Christmas Tree lanterns no one knows.
Here’s an example of a traditional string of Christmas Lights modded out to hand under lanterns. The soft light of lanterns is less harsh on the eyes and creates something more subtle.
8. Scroll with Japanese Christmas Tree
In traditional Japanese houses there is a space called the “Toko No Ma”. This literally means “bed space” but it is almost never used for placing bedding these days.
Rather, these spaces form a recess in the wall where objects of art and decoration are placed. These can be Ikebana flower arrangements, artworks, and, most frequently, Japanese Hanging Scrolls.
Often the art on the wall interacts with the three dimensional art or aesthetic piece or flower that sits in front of it. So it is natural for Japanese people to think about putting some kind of a backdrop with their Christmas tree. It’s an interesting idea.
Here we see a floral and craft based Christmas tree meets ikebana arrangement placed in front of a Christmas themed hanging scroll.
9. Lighting & Illuminated Japanese Christmas Trees
Japanese people go crazy for all kinds of street and installed illumination. This steps up a notch into overdrive around the holiday season. Often this illumination is mixed with a Christmas Tree arrangement.
Here is an example of a Japanese Christmas Tree installation in a shopping centre that really blurs the lines between tree and illumination.
10. Traditional Decoration Japanese Christmas Trees
Japan has such a rich culture of traditional arts and aesthetics that it is near irresistible to experiment with mixing this with Christmas.
In this arrangement we see elaborate Japanese paper art adorning the tree. A lantern arrangement and the traditional symbol of prosperity – the crane.
Fish, especially Koi, are associated with prosperity in Japan. They are used extensively in decorations for children’s festivals. Why not bring them into the festive season?
You will often see trees “strung up” in various ways in Japanese gardens. Branches will be tied, or arranged with string in various ways. A similar concept can be brought to strings of lights on the Christmas tree.
A traditional tree in a Japanese garden gets the Christmas Treatment!
A traditional Japanese Christmas Tree with the lot!
Is it a tree? Is it wrapping? Is it a decoration? It’s all of that and more!
11. Christmas Trees With Japanese Fans
Amongst Christmas trees decorated with traditional items, trees adorned with fans are the most common. And why not?
A Japanese Christmas Tree erected in the UK with “Merry Christmas” messages written in katakana script on fans.
Fans of red, white and gold on a Christmas Tree. Luckily, all three of these colors are associated with both Christmas and Japan.
A Christmas Tree decorated almost exclusively with fans and baubles.
A rich golden fan adds a luxurious accent to the tree.
12. Shinto influenced Japanese Christmas Trees
The national Shinto religion of Japan is rich in symbolism. Trees hold a particularly sacred meaning in this culture, so it makes sense to mix some of this into the Christmas Tree tradition.
Trees in sacred places in Japan are often decorated with jagged pieces of paper called shide or ringe with pieces of rope called shimenawa.
A Christmas Tree in Roppongi Hills made exclusively of shimenawa rope.
The pieces of paper hanging from this abstract Christmas tree are very similar to the shide that you see adorning sacred trees or around shingo shrines in Japan
13. Rough Bottomed Japanese Christmas Trees
This one was one we weren’t expecting when putting together this article on Japanese Christmas Trees, but if you look through some of the trees above, and here below, you will notice that there is a whole genre of Japanese Christmas Trees where the bottom third of the tree is either left bare or purposely rough.
This seems to reflect the Japanese aesthetic of roughness, or finding beauty in the imperfect. This is the concept of wabi sabi that sees beauty that is too perfect as being, well, less beautiful.
Here is a Christmas tree composed entirely of balls of Mizuhiki, Japanese decorative paper cords.
The History of the Japanese Christmas Tree
How Old Is Japan’s Christmas Tree Tradition?
In the book “Santa Claus No Nazo The Mystery of Santa Claus” by Shuichi Kaku it is recorded that the Prussian Minister Eulenberg erected a Christmas Tree in Japan in 1859. Eulenberg had a local Edo arborist search for a suitable tree which was displayed indoors and decorated. The Prussian invited other foreign dignitaries in Japan, including a British minister named Alcock and an interpreter by the name of Heusken.
The tree was large, reaching as high as the roof.
What was the first Christmas Tree in Japan?
In Hitomi Wakabayashi and Shiramizusha’s “kurisumasu bunka shi Cultural History of Christmas” its is recorded that the first decoration of a tree in Japan for Christmas was in 1860 when a Prussian minister of government using the very Japanese materials of Cedar, bamboo and Camelia wood.
Who put up the first Christmas Tree in Japan?
The first Christmas Tree recorded to have been erected in japan was in 1859 or 1860 by Prusian minister Friedrich Albrecht zu Eulenburg. He worked with a local arborist to have a ceiling-high tree erected in an indoor setting for Christmas.
Who was the first Japanese person to put up a Christmas Tree in Japan?
In the book “Ai to kyoran no merry Christmas The love and madness of Merry Christmas” Kenichiro Horii records that Taneaki Hara is most likely the first native Japanese person to put up a Christmas Tree. He erected his tree in the Tsukiji settlement in 1874 in accordance with his Christian faith.
How did the Christmas Tree tradition spread in Japan?
The Christmas Tree tradition is strongly associated with the influential Meidi-ya (also written as Meiji-ya) foreign-import item shop in Tokyo.
In Japan, December 7 is considered “Christmas Tree Day”. This tradition stems from December 7 1886 where it is believed that the first public Christmas Tree was displayed at Meijiya’s Yokohama store.
Meijiya’s founder Isao Hakaru had seen Christmas Trees on display when he went to London to study in his 20s. He incorporated a Christmas Tree every year into the store he set up upon his return to Japan.
The Meiji-ya Christmas displays were large installations and probably did more than anything else to spread the idea of the Christmas Tree in Japan.
Where can I buy Japanese Christmas Tree Items and presents?
Our friends over at japaneseshop.co.uk also have a good selection of Japanese Christmas Gifts that you might want to check out.
Hopefully this article has given you some ideas for things you could try with your own tree to add a Japanese touch. The Japanese Christmas Tree tradition, as with those of traditions around the world, continues to evolve. Leave a comment or picture if you have come up with any Japanese inspired Christmas Tree ideas of your own!