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Kentucky Fried Chicken has become a massive hit in Japan during the Christmas season, with lines wrapping around the corner and generating huge sales. Japanese YouTuber Yoko Ishii told Fox News how the fast food chain has become a holiday phenomenon over the past 50 years.

KFC Japan records its highest annual sales in the run-up to Christmas, with Dec. 24 being the chain’s “busiest day of the year, 10 times busier than KFC Japan’s annual average,” according to the company’s website. Ishii said both she and her husband separately witnessed the mass lines in their hometown of Fukuoka.

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“I was walking home and I saw KFC inside the big house [train] station nearby and I saw the line,” Ishii told Fox News. “I was like, what’s going on?

“I realized they were lined up for Kentucky for Christmas,” he said.

US-based restaurant chain KFC began operations in Japan in 1970 and launched its first Christmas-themed marketing campaign there four years later.

KFC’s Colonel Sanders statue dressed as Santa is seen in Tokyo, Japan on December 23, 2020.
(Yuichi Yamazaki/Getty Images)

Ishii said he was familiar with Kentucky’s Christmas slogan because he grew up hearing it commercials on television. The origins of the campaign are linked to an unidentified foreigner who visited a Tokyo KFC restaurant on Christmas Day in the early 1970s, according to KFC’s website.

“I can’t get turkey in Japan, so I have no choice but to celebrate Christmas with Kentucky Fried Chicken,” the customer remarked, according to the KFC report. “A member of the KFC Japan sales team heard this remark and used it as inspiration to launch the first Christmas campaign and its tagline, Kentucky Christmas.”

Christmas dinner. turkey thighs with stuffing, roasted potatoes and more

KFC Japan’s first Christmas dinner consisted of a bucket, known as a “barrel” in Japan, with fried chicken and a bottle of wine, and was also offered to enjoy at a holiday party, according to KFC’s website.

Since then, the annual Christmas lunch promotions have expanded. Many Japanese place their Christmas orders at KFC months in advance, as restaurant lines often spill out onto city streets during the actual holiday.

People line up outside KFC on December 23, 2020 in Tokyo, Japan.

People line up outside KFC on December 23, 2020 in Tokyo, Japan.
(Yuichi Yamazaki/Getty Images)

KFC Japan raked in about 7.1 billion yen (about $53 million in current U.S. dollars) in 2019, according to Shared Research.

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Many Japanese have embraced the commercial aspects of Christmas, even though only 1% of the population is Christian. Ishii said the willingness of Japanese people to assimilate foreign celebrations into their lives has propelled Kentucky’s Christmas success.

“I guess we’re just happy people celebrating anything we can,” he told Fox News.

To learn more about how KFC launched a sustainable Christmas marketing campaign in Japan, Click here.

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