Life Through Seasons in Japan

The Curious Case of Easter in Japan

Last Updated on 2024-03-26 by Teni

For about 7 years now, I’ve noticed that Easter is now a “thing” that’s celebrated in Japan.

And, by “celebrate,” I mean, it’s really an excuse to fuel copious consumption. We just had the New Year’s sales and otoshidama gifting, Valentine’s Day and White Day, so why create another reason to shop?

I personally believe in retail therapy and racking up points at 2 AM, so I am the last person who has the right to side eye anyone’s shopping habits.

With that said… why Easter?

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Japan is not a Christian country, and the Tokugawa Shogunate made damn sure that missionaries were unsuccessful in spreading Christianity on a mass scale.

Despite these efforts, Christianity took root, albeit on a small scale.

There’s more registered foreigners in Japan than there are Japanese Christians. Nevertheless, Christian schools, like the ones I attended, managed to pop up.

(I’ve touched on my educational background before on the blog, but here’s a recap if you’re new — and “Hi!” by the way, if you’re new!)

I studied abroad at International Christian University as part of an exchange with my Quaker college. Later, I graduated with a Master of Arts at Sophia University, a school founded by the Society of Jesus which in turn was founded by St. Francis Xavier, the man who brought Christianity to Japan in 1549.

So, I’ve always had a connection to the history of Christianity in Japan, and as a kindergarten teacher I faced a mini-dilemma this time of year.

Part of it is perhaps due to memories of going to church with my grandmother. To put it simply, there’s nothing like Easter Sunday, especially in the South.

Christmas is fabulous and all, but let’s face it– it’s just a big birthday party. Nothing wrong with celebrating a birthday with people of different faiths.

Now Easter on the other hand…

Spring in Japan means cherry blossoms and… Easter?

The Curious Case of Easter in Japan

Easter Sunday is the biggest event in the Christian calendar. Going to church on Easter always meant that you’d be decked out in a brand new outfit and too tight patent leather shoes.

No matter your family’s financial situation, you showed up in the house of the LORD with your hair pressedt (not “pressed,” pressedT) and ready to eat worship.

I mean, Easter is the fundamental Christian holiday. It’s the reason why Christians are Christians!

Believing that Jesus is the Son of God? Check.

Believing that He died for our sins? Check.

Believing that He rose from the dead and will return as the reigning Messiah? Check.

How should I teach this event without converting a group of 4-5 year olds?!

To top it all off, this is compounded by the fact that I have a student with an egg allergy.

With no Jesus and egg dying, what exactly are we supposed to do for the upcoming Easter party? Decorate onigiri (rice balls)?

Easter onigiri might not be such a bad idea after all!

I remember teaching part time at a kids’ English class and seeing “Easter” on the lesson plan. I asked my Japanese co-teacher, “Do we talk about Jesus?” to which she replied with a blank stare. IMO that’s just not Easter, it’s just talking about spring.

(Yes, I am very well aware of Easter’s Pagan roots. For me, growing up in a Baptist church, going to Catholic school, and seeing Easter reduced to its pagan roots is… Ironically enough, I love how mainstream Halloween has become in Japan, mainly because I didn’t do anything as a child!)

Thus, the curious case of Easter in Japan: a celebration of sweets and all things kawaii, but certainly nothing to do with Jesus… or even dressing up.

As fashion forward as this country is, I can’t believe even Shibuya 109 hasn’t gotten behind a “Kawaii Easter Sunday Fashion Parade…”

In the end, I know I’m overthinking it. After all, this is a land where kawaii reigns supreme, so as with every year, I’ll scour Pinterest for cute age-appropriate crafts and wait for the Easter-themed doughnuts to hit the shelves!

BONUS: Where Can I Buy Easter Baskets/Bunny Ears/Egg Dyes?

Because Easter in growing in popularity, you’ll definitely be able to find baskets, goodies, and decorations at Daiso, Can Do, Seria and other 100 yen shops.

Hit up Lindt for golden Easter bunnies and Plaza & Kaldi for import candy with an Easter theme.

Costco Online now sells giant chocolate eggs that weigh 6 kg! I don’t recall seeing these in previous years, but they’ve been extremely popular since 2021!

For bunny ears and costumes, it’s probably better to start your search in September-October (Halloween season!). But, you will still be able to find them at a 100 yen shop or even at Claire’s.

You’ll definitely be able to pick up some Tokyo Disney Resort-themed Easter swag, too!

Lastly, you can find powdered food coloring (食用色素 | shoku you shiki so OR 着色料 | chaku shoku ryou) in any supermarket in the baking aisle.

This set of 5 colors is a domestic brand of powered pigments available on Amazon Japan.

Amazon Japan also stocks this 4 color set by McCormick.

PS: If you’re up to baking Easter-themed cupcakes, check out this post: Baking Cupcakes in My Tiny Tokyo Kitchen

Happy Easter, y’all!

For more on other Japanese celebrations, I recommend this book, Japanese Traditions: Rice Cakes, Cherry Blossoms and Matsuri: A Year of Seasonal Japanese Festivities:

Available on Amazon & Amazon Japan

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The Curious Case of Easter in Japan