How do you effectively build your advertising and promotion strategy over the course of the promotional marketing calendar in the Japanese market?

In this infographic, we illustrate the marketing calendar and the opportunities therein for driving results in the Japan market.

Major Seasonal Promotions in Japan

January to February

The New Year starts off the fukubukuros (“lucky bags”), an event which sees bags with several mystery items sold at substantial discounts. This promotional event typically receives the most amount of attention from consumers and the press each year. Winter season sales accelerate until late January.

Valentine’s Day is the biggest promotional event in February. Unlike western countries, in Japan, women are socially obligated to give small chocolate gifts to all men in their lives. Chocolates are doled out to coworkers, acquaintances, family members, as well as romantic partners. In recent years, more and more women are choosing to treat themselves to luxury chocolates as well.

March to April

White Day is traditionally when male recipients of Valentine’s Day chocolates are expected to return the favour.

From February to the end of March, businesses focus on “new lifestyle” promotions. In Japan, many holiday and business calendars begin in April. Most Japanese companies start their fiscal year on April 1st and schools start new grades from April. As a result, appliances, gadgets, and furnishings are packaged together at attractive prices 1–2 months prior, for those preparing for upcoming “new life” changes. Consumers for these promotions include students, businesses, and company workers in Japan.

April also brings fashion changes, with spring-themed products put on clearance to make way for summer products that will be on display by early May.

May to June

The end of April features a series of individual public holidays, which, coincidentally, take place back-to-back. Many Japanese people take this opportunity to give themselves an extra-long holiday, which is known as Golden Week in Japan. It also contributes to a significant boost to the domestic tourism industry.

Japan then enters the rainy season (called “tsuyu”) in mid-June. Many stores start selling products that can help you deal with the rainfall and humidity during this period.

July to August

The pleasant part of summer begins after the rainy season. Students go on their summer breaks, while working adults typically receive their summer bonuses during this time. Many companies give week-long holidays to their employees for Obon, a traditional festival held over 3 days to honour the spirits of ancestors.

Most department stores, fashion stores, and outlets begin to slash prices by 20%–60% in order to sell through summer product lines. Summer products (especially sun protection) are also popular items for promotions.

September to October

In Japan, professional baseball teams are sponsored by companies who pass on savings to customers whenever the team wins a game in a playoff series. This is known as a “victory sale”. These sales are regional, time-limited, and specific to the sponsoring company. For instance, Rakuten Ichiba offers bonus points to customers after the Rakuten Eagles win a game.

November to December

November to December is the peak marketing and promotional period. It is the season for foreign-inspired sales events such as Alibaba’s Singles Day (called Ii Kaimono no Hi or “Good Shop Day”) and Black Friday.

While Christmas is not celebrated in Japan, Christmas-themed products are very common. Japanese beauty brands offer limited edition “Christmas Coffret” sets with collectable colours and pouches that are highly popular, making it a good opportunity for international beauty and personal care brands to drive growth in the market.

Most people also take a year-end break to prepare for the coming New Year, which often involves cleaning and shopping.