Podcast Review: Household Name: Kentucky Fried Christmas (2018)

When I heard an ad for a podcast from Business Insider, I wasn't initially interested. Then the ad mentioned that there was an episode about the connection between KFC and Christmas in Japan, and I was immediately searching for the download button.

Unfortunately, the episode didn't tell me much that I didn't already know, but the story was told well and the episode was overall a lot of fun.

If you aren't interested in Japanese culture or the minutiae of the holiday, you might not know that Kentucky Fried Chicken is closely associated with Christmas in Japan. While that might seem strange to Americans at first, the surface-level reasons are those that you might come up with if pressed: Western holiday - Western food, chicken is close to the traditional (i.e., Dickensian) turkey, and Colonel Sanders bears a decent resemblance to Santa Claus.

I was hoping for some deeper revelation or twist, but the reporter on the podcast says that's most of it, although how the connection got started is intriguing.

According to the manager of the first KFC in Japan, Takeshi Okawara, the business was not successful until he catered a Christmas party at a school run by nuns in a Santa costume and then came up with the idea to market the visual similarity between Sanders and Old Saint Nick. This boosted the store's popularity immensely, and eventually said manager was interviewed about the phenomenon and asked by Japanese media whether Westerners traditionally eat fried chicken on Christmas. At this point, although he claims to regret it now, he lied and said yes, of course they do.

Some of this account might be fabricated or exaggerated, according to the official stance of KFC Japan, but that's his story.

Although there wasn't much new information for me in this podcast, listening to the story in Okawara's own words was a lot of fun, as were the snippets of person-on-the-street opinions about KFC in Japan.

Listen on Stitcher, or wherever you get your podcasts.