In Japan, there’s a beautiful Christmas tradition: People eat KFC. That’s it. It’s been a holiday to-do in the nation for nearly half a century. And now the man who claims he created it is saying that it’s all built on a delicious lie.
Business Insider’s podcast Household Name recently did a story on Takeshi Okawara, who in 1970 was the store manager of a floundering KFC outpost. His was the first of the fried chicken joint’s restaurants to arrive in Japan, and the Colonel’s recipe simply wasn’t catching on.
That all changed when a nun asked Okawara to bring his tasty product to a Christmas party. His newly imported chicken was a hit — so much so that soon others asked him to do the same for their shindigs. Then more people heard about the pairing. Eventually it got so big that he was asked, on national television, if it Christmas KFC was a thing in the West. Okawara said yes, it was. Ron Howard-on-Arrested Development voice: It wasn’t.
“I … know that the people are not eating chicken, they are eating turkey,” Okawara said. Nevertheless, he printed the legend. “I still regret that,” Okawara told Household Name. “But people … like it.”
KFC Japan disputed Okawara’s claims, claiming it was a “visiting foreigner” who hatched the idea of marrying fried chicken with Christmas. Whatever the real genesis, it’s what helped make KFC successful in Japan, so whatever gets the job done.
Mind you, Christmas wasn’t even much of a tradition in Japan. The country is predominantly Shinto or Buddhist, with only 2.3 percent of the population identifying as Christian. But Christmas isn’t really about Christianity that much these days anyway, and KFC has been a major part of how Japan celebrates the holiday. Stores dress up their Colonel Sanders statues in Santa regalia and people order their buckets weeks in advance, afraid to celebrate the holiday without some of the Colonel’s crispy chicken.
This isn’t a bad idea. But if you’re going to bring this tradition stateside, is it cool if some of us substitute Popeyes for KFC?
(Via Business Insider)