Christmas in Tokyo is a mind-boggling mashup of traditions, with continental-style markets playing a prominent part in the lead-up to the big day.
The German influence is the most pronounced, probably due to the year-round popularity of a certain malt beverage, which often appears to be the main attraction at many of these bazaars. It's all very convenient though: shopping for gifts while wielding a hot cup of glühwein or a glass of weissbier makes it all far less stressful.
Nonetheless, do take care: the dreaded cliché overdose may strike even the most ardent of Christmas lovers. And if you'd rather just look at pretty lights, check out our roundup of Tokyo's top illumination shows.
The best Christmas markets around Tokyo
Taking over from the farmers' markets that happen year round at Ebisu Garden Place's Clock Plaza, this European-style Christmas market offers all the usual knickknacks and goodies, from snow globes to mulled wine and continental grub. An impressive tree is set up right next to the stalls, while the shopping complex below is decorated with a massive Baccarat chandelier and thousands of shining LEDs. As a new addition for this year, the market will re-open as a New Year's Marche between December 27 and January 11.
Yokohama Red Brick Warehouse Christmas Market
The fir trees lining the entrance to this annual German-style Christmas market have been dressed for the occasion with colourful lights, and the main plaza features a massive Christmas tree complete with flashy decorations.
The actual market area is filled with stalls selling various ornaments and other holiday paraphernalia, and visitors can also enjoy Teutonic goodies such as schnitzels, sausages, stollen cakes and glühwein. Christmas-themed workshops and fireworks displays will be taking place as well.
Roppongi Hills Christmas Market
Back for its ninth edition, the German-style Roppongi Hills Christmas Market always features a wealth of over-the-top decorations, overplayed carols and sellers toting snow globes, but also rather more unseasonal Teutonic classics such as sausages and bier. The cliché overload will probably get to you rather quickly, but at least the glühwein is warm and authentic.
Tokyo Christmas Market
Among all the German-style Christmas markets happening in Tokyo in December, this Hibiya Park extravaganza just might be the one most worth attending: in addition to the obligatory stalls hawking everything from handmade holiday decorations to hot chocolate, German beer and glühwein, you can look forward to a 14m 'Christmas pyramid' imported straight from the city of Dresden. This tuned-up version of a traditional German holiday staple is apparently the largest of its kind in the world, and even has a Guinness World Record certificate to prove it.
Solamachi Christmas Market
German-influenced Christmas markets have taken Tokyo by storm, and this one offers all the usual attractions: wooden stalls with sellers touting various 'holiday accessories', warm glühwein, and traditional confections such as stollen, waffles and chocolate fudge. The lighting in the market area combines nicely with the winter illuminations around the Skytree, creating an unoriginal but admittedly homely atmosphere at the Solamachi shopping complex.
Omotesando Hills Christmas
As far as indoor Christmas markets in Tokyo go, this one on the third basement floor of Omotesando Hills ranks among the more amply stocked: a pop-up grocery store sells cookies, chocolate, gourmet granola and much more, while the Garden Café is where to taste snacks made with Chiba brand pork and Star of Bombay gin (!).
As a fun addition, a 'waffle merry-go-round' will be set up next to the stalls, allowing you to customise waffles bought at the grocery with toppings from chocolate crunch to mixed nuts. Last-minute shoppers will also be happy to hear that the opening hours are extended to 10pm between December 22 and 25.
World Christmas Festival
While it's unlikely to make expats stranded in Tokyo over Christmas feel any less homesick, there are probably worse things you could do before the big day than head to this festival of santa-centric cheer in Yoyogi Park. The World Christmas Festival is a tangle of mixed messages: we've been promised hordes of people in Father Christmas costumes, though you can also look forward to dancing and stalls selling an international range of edibles. More details are still to be announced, so stay tuned.
Tokyo Midtown Marché de Noël
Tokyo Midtown gets into the seasonal mood with this annual market, held on the first basement floor of the Galleria shopping zone, where sellers tout wares ranging from ornaments and tableware to seasonal sweets and gift items. The selection is slightly more varied here than at some of the other Tokyo markets, so those who haven't decided on presents yet might want to check this one out. When visiting, don't miss the gorgeous Christmas lighting outside – the illumination show around Midtown's lawn is especially worth a look.
December 2015 events in Tokyo Where to admire the autumn leaves in Tokyo