Pandemic spurs new Christmas dining, recreation as people stay home

Dec 25 , 2020. 18 hours ago – 16:35 | KYODO NEWS

Photo taken in Tokyo on Dec. 23, 2020, shows a set of Christmas dishes exclusive French restaurant Kihachi in the capital’s Aoyama area offers for takeout and delivery. (Kyodo) ==Kyodo

TOKYO – People in Japan are embracing a different way of celebrating Christmas, with more opting to stay at home and order high-end dinners amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Instead of dining out at posh restaurants, people can now enjoy fancy cuisine at home, with sales of cakes up and toys for family entertainment sought after.

Japanese “wagyu” steak garnished with foie gras and truffles, and pan-fried lobster are being packed in plastic containers this year by Kihachi, a restaurant in Tokyo specializing in French cuisine.

Its Christmas season menu, which it began offering on Dec. 7, has been modified for delivery to ensure sauces are separated from dishes so that the food can be heated in customers’ kitchens.

Kihachi has seen reservations drop amid the rise in COVID-19 cases, with many people avoiding crowded and poorly ventilated places.

Kihachi, which has reduced its seating to comply with guidelines, says its delivery service has been doing better than expected, with manager Kanae Ishihara hoping people will “enjoy the restaurant’s food to make up for staying at home.”

A survey on ways to spend Christmas, conducted by Cross Marketing Inc. earlier this month that covered around 1,100 men and women in their 20s through 60s, showed that “having a rather fancy meal at home” ranked first at 24 percent, followed by “having a party at home only with family” at 20 percent.

Cake sales have also risen, as people treat themselves to ward off the coronavirus blues.

At Nihombashi Mitsukoshi department store in central Tokyo, sales of cream cakes have increased 1.5 times from a year earlier, while Ginza Cozy Corner Co., which has stores mostly in Tokyo and surrounding areas, said cake orders were up 20 percent from the year before.

Customers buy Christmas cakes at a Ginza Cozy Corner cake shop in Tokyo on Dec. 24, 2020. (Kyodo) ==Kyodo

The pandemic has also boosted demand for pizzas. Pizza Hut Japan Ltd., which oversees around 420 stores in Japan, said orders placed on the three weekdays leading up to Christmas Day are much higher this year and it has increased employees for that day in anticipation of increased demand.

Consumers have also increasingly turned to goods that can be enjoyed by the entire family, with Toys”R”Us-Japan Ltd. saying board and party games have become more popular this year.

A company official said the strong preference to stay at home and the cancellation of many Christmas events have resulted in toys being bought for presents.