At last we come to the crown-jewels of any seasonal celebration, namely the food that populate the feast. The perfect way to investigate how Japanese translators would render specific Christmas dishes perhaps not known to them would be through the Dickensian lens of voluminous and opulent descriptions, where there are dozens upon dozens of dishes that make their appearance, and the grand march of these appears when the Ghost of Christmas Present transforms in a feat of convivially verdant wonder the living room of old Scrooge into a veritable palace of greenery and Christmas foods.

There shall be a brief description of what the foods are, since some of these are either obscure outside of England or have since become old fashioned.

Here is the paragraph from the third chapter of the story, Stave 3, where Scrooge encounters the second of the spirits, the Ghost of Christmas Present, whose conviviality illuminates the room in all manners possible, where the items that we will discuss are marked:

Heaped up on the floor, to form a kind of throne, were turkeys, geese, game, poultry, brawn, great joints of meat, sucking-pigs, long wreaths of sausages, mince-pies, plum-puddings, barrels of oysters, red-hot chestnuts, cherry-cheeked apples, juicy oranges, luscious pears, immense twelfth-cakes, and seething bowls of punch, that made the chamber dim with their delicious steam. In easy state upon this couch, there sat a jolly Giant, glorious to see; who bore a glowing torch, in shape not unlike Plenty’s horn, and held it up, high up, to shed its light on Scrooge, as he came peeping round the door.

The translators that will be covered in this article are:

Kusano Kyouji  (1902)
Benibara (1911) - Pseudonym.
Yaguchi Tatsu (1915)
Nakajima Kotou (1920)
Hori Eijirou (1928)
Morita Souhei  (1929)
Yamanaka Mitsuo (1941)
Yamamoto Masaki (1948)
Katokt (2011) - Pseudonym, a web-based translation.

The Turkey

All of the translators agree upon that this voluminous bird of the Meleagris genus, is called shichimenchou (七面鳥, "Bird of Seven Faces", presumably due to its imposing posterior plumage).

The Geese

Whilst the word gachou that is used to translate the name of the animal, it is written in three distinct ways, the translators are mentioned in brackets:

鵝鳥 (Kusano and Benibara) - Using kanji.
鵞鳥 (Yaguchi, Nakajima, Hori, Morita and Yamanaka) Using kanji.
がちょう (Yamamoto and Katokt) - Purely hiragana.

Kusano and Benibara are the two oldest of the translations, 1902 and 1911, whereas Yaguchi to Yamanaka cover the period from 1920 to 1941, lastly Yamamoto and Katokt are 1948 and 2011, where the latter translations opt for purely phonetic wording, and one would also expect ガチョウ, the katakana spelling, which is the usual rendering for animal names in Japanese, especially for those using complex or rare kanji.

鵝 and 鵞 have essentially the same radicals, kanji elements, but in different orders, whereof the latter is the most common, both meaning "goose," with bird (鳥) tacked on the end of the word to make even more clear that this is a bird, this isn't a bizarre singular occurrence, since it occurs also elsewhere, where the complex species kanji is paired with a more generic qualifier as a suffix.

Going forth, we will be listing the translations more systematically, and I will point out any differences or things of interest.


Kusano (1902) - 小さい獸 - Chiisai kemono - "Small beast"
Benibara (1911) - 小さい獸 - Chiisai kemono - "Small beast"
Yaguchi (1915) - 獲物 - Emono - "Game"
Nakajima (1920) - 野の鳥 - No no tori - "Wild fowl"
Hori (1928) - 臘禽 - Ryouchou - "Game fowl"
Morita (1929) - 猟禽 - Ryouchou - "Game fowl"
Yamanaka (1941) - 猪の肉 - Inoshishi no niku - "Boar meat"
Yamamoto (1948) - 野鳥 - Yachou - "Wild fowl"
Katokt (2011) - 鳥獣 - Choujuu - "Wild life"

鳥獣 is literally "birds and beasts" and as such works as a pars per toto, "parts of the whole", expression for the concept of "wildlife" or "hunting game."


Kusano (1902) - 小さい獸 Chiisai kemono - "Small beast"
Benibara (1911) - 鴨 - Kamo - "Duck"
Yaguchi (1915) - 家禽 - Kakin - "Poultry"
Nakajima (1920) - 家禽 - Kaidori - "Poultry"
Hori (1928) - 家禽 - Kakin - "Poultry"
Morita (1929) - 家禽 - Kakin - "Poultry"
Yamanaka (1941) - None
Yamamoto (1948) - 家禽 - Kakin - "Poultry"
Katokt (2011) - 家禽 - Kakin - "Poultry"

Only Yaguchi opts for a more specific species of bird, and Kusano's translation is essentially his catch-all for the "game", "poultry" and "brawn."


Kusano (1902) - 小さい獸 Chiisai kemono - "Small beast"
Benibara (1911) - 猪 - Inoshishi - "Boar"
Yaguchi (1915) - 野猪 - Inoshishi - "Wild boar"
Nakajima (1920) - 野猪 - Inoshishi - "Wild boar"
Hori (1928) - 野猪肉 - Yachoniku - "Wild boar meat"
Morita (1929) - 野猪肉 - Yachoniku - "Wild boar meat"
Yamanaka (1941) - None
Yamamoto (1948) - いのし肉 - Inoshi niku - "Boar meat"
Katokt (2011) - ブローン -  Brôn - "Brawn"

Katokt goes for a literal transcription of the English word, whereas all others have gone for the porcine meat.

Great joints of meat

Kusano (1902) - 肉の大股 - Niku no oomata - "Straddles of meat"
Benibara (1911) - 肉の太股 - Niku no futomono - "Thighs of meat"
Yaguchi (1915) - 大きな腿肉 - Ookina momoniku - "Great thigh meat"
Nakajima (1920) - 牛の股 - Ushi no momo - "Bovine thigh"
Hori (1928) - 牛の太腿肉 - Ushi no futomomoniku - "Bovine thigh meat"
Morita (1929) - 獣肉の大腿 - Juuniku no daitai - "Thighs of animal flesh"
Yamanaka (1941) - 牛のもも肉 - Ushi no momoniku - "Bovine thigh meat"
Yamamoto (1948) - 大きな牛の腿肉 - Ookina ushi no momoniku - "Great bovine thigh meat"
Katokt (2011) - 大きな肉片 - Ookina nikuhen - "Great cuts of meat"

Sucking pigs

Kusano (1902) - 豚の子 - Futa no ko - "Piglet" (lit. Pig's offspring)
Benibara (1911) - 小豚 - Kobuta - "Piglet"
Yaguchi (1915) - 小豚 - Kobuta - "Piglet"
Nakajima (1920) - 仔豚 - Kobuta - "Piglet"
Hori (1928) - 仔豚 - Kobuta - "Piglet"
Morita (1929) - 仔豚 - Kobuta - "Piglet"
Yamanaka (1941) - 仔豚の腸詰のながいくさりのやうになった - Kobuta no choutzume no nagaikusari no you ni natta - "Long strands of stuff like piglet sausages"
Yamamoto (1948) - 仔ぶた - Kobuta - "Piglet"
Katokt (2011) - 子豚 - Kobuta - "Piglet"

"Sucking pigs" is basically an older word referring to piglets drinking from their mothers teat during the sow's lactation period. The words for piglet in Japanese are all three read as kobuta, but use slightly different initial kanji:
小 - "small"
仔 - "young; offspring of animals"
子 - "child"
The middlemost one is more specific for the young of animals.

Long wreaths of sausages

Kusano (1902) - 膓詰の長い胃袋 - Choutzume no nagai ibukuro - "Sausages of long stomachs"
Benibara (1911) -  臘膓の長い胃袋 - Rouchou no nagai ibukuro - "Long meat-viscera of stomachs"
Yaguchi (1915) - 長い腸詰の環 - Nagai choutzume no wa - "Rings of long sausages"
Nakajima (1920) - 腸詰の長くねじれたのや - Choutzume no nagaku nejireta no ya - "And long twisting things akin to sausages"
Hori (1928) - 膓詰の長い環 - Choutzume no nagai wa - "Rings of long sausages"
Morita (1929) - 腸詰の長い巻物 - Choutzume no nagai makimono - "Long Makimono of sausages"
Yamanaka (1941) - 仔豚の腸詰のながいくさりのやうになった - Kobuta no choutzume no nagaikusari no you ni natta - "Long strands of stuff like piglet sausages"
Yamamoto (1948) - 長くつらなった腸詰 - Nagakutsuuranatta choutzume - "Long and stretched out sausages"
Katokt (2011) - 長い輪になったソーセージ - Nagai wa ni natta sôsêji - "Long rings of sausages"


Kusano (1902) - ミンスパイ - Minzupai  - "Mince-pie"
Benibara (1911) -  ミンスパイ - Minzupai  - "Mince-pie"
Yaguchi (1915) - 肉饅頭 Minzupai  - "Mince-pie" (lit. Manju with meat-filling)
Nakajima (1920) - 肉入りのパイ
Hori (1928) - 肉饅頭 - Manjuu - "Manju"
Morita (1929) - 刻肉饅頭 Minzupai - "Mince-pie" (lit. "Minced Manju")
Yamanaka (1941) - 肉まんぢゅう - Niku manjuu - "Meat Manju"
Yamamoto (1948) - 刻肉まんじゅう - Kokuniku manjuu - "Mincemeat Manju"
Katokt (2011) - 小さなパイ - Chisana pai - "Tiny pie"

Manju being the traditional Japanese bun with bean filling. You will notice that a few of these have non-standard readings, i.e. jukujikun, that is applying a reading for the compound word or characters that is not normally so, regularly done so for the sake of either word-play or writing the meaning of a loan word - thus the kanji for the word nikumanjuu is given the reading minzupai, signifying to the Japanese reader that the English dish "mince-pie" is akin to the Japanese meat Manju.


Kusano (1902) - 乾葡萄入の臘膓 Hoshibudounyuu no puddingu - "Raisen-inserted Pudding" (lit. "Raisin-inserted dried-meat-viscera")
Benibara (1911) - プッヂング - Puddingu - "Pudding"
Yaguchi (1915) - 梅餻 Puramupuddingu - "Plum-pudding" (lit. "Japanese Apricot pastry")
Nakajima (1920) - 干葡萄入りのプデン - Hoshibudou iri no puden - "Raisen-inserted pudding"
Hori (1928) - 李入菓子 Puramupuddingu - "Plum-pudding" (lit. "Plum-inserted cakes")
Morita (1929) - 李入り菓子 Puramupuddingu - "Plum-pudding" (lit. "Plum-inserted cakes")
Yamanaka (1941) - 杏入りのプデング - Anzu iri no pudengu - "Apricot-inserted pudding"
Yamamoto (1948) - プラムのプリン - Puramu no purin - "Plum pudding"
Katokt (2011) - プラムプディング - Puramupudingu - "Plum-pudding"

Once more furigana wizardry is at play here, Kusano, Yaguchi, Hori and Morita being those who apply jukujikun to a compound word to explain the concept of plum-puddings to a Japanese audience. I was thrown off by the kanji used for puddingu, i.e. 臘膓, whose literally meaning is "Winter-Offering Viscera," which admittedly sounds like some ancient grizzly sacrificial rite, but the Chinese meaning of the kanji is "dried meat," and the additional meaning also suggests the "12th month in the Buddhist calendar," which would make it a clever pun/reference to Christmas being held in the Gregorian 12th month of December.

Barrels of oysters

Kusano (1902) - 何升を云ふ牡蠣 Nanshou wo iu kaki - "Many volumes of oysters"
Benibara (1911) - 何升といふ 牡蠣 -  Nanshou too iu kaki - "Many volumes of oysters"
Yaguchi (1915) - 牡蠣の樽 - Kaki no taru - "Barrels of oysters"
Nakajima (1920) - 牡蠣の樽詰 - Kaki no tarutzume - "Barrels of oysters"
Hori (1928) - 牡蠣の樽詰 - Kaki no tarutzume - "Packed barrels of oysters"
Morita (1929) - 牡蠣の樽 - Kaki no taru - "Barrels of oysters"
Yamanaka (1941) - かきの樽詰 - Kaki no tarutzume - "Packed barrels of oysters"
Yamamoto (1948) - たる詰のかき - Tarutzume no kaki - "Packed barrels of oysters"
Katokt (2011) - 大量の牡蠣 - Tairyou no kaki - "Packed barrels of oysters"

Red-hot chestnuts

Kusano (1902) - 赤い煎栗 - Akai senguri - "Red infused chestnuts"
Benibara (1911) - 赤く煎った栗 - Akaku itta kuri - "Reddened roasted chestnuts"
Yaguchi (1915) - 焼きたての栗 - Yakitate no kuri - "Roasted chestnuts"
Nakajima (1920) - 眞赤に焼けた栗 - Makka ni yaketa kuri - "Deep-red roasted chestnuts"
Hori (1928) - 赤く焼けた胡桃 - Akaku yaketa kurumi - "Red-roasted walnuts"
Morita (1929) - 赤く焼けている胡桃 - Akaku yakette iru kurumi - "Red-roasted walnuts"
Yamanaka (1941) - 赤くやけたクルミ - Akaku yaketa kurumi - "Red-roasted walnuts"
Yamamoto (1948) - 赤くやけたくるみ - Akaku yaketa kurumi - "Red-roasted walnuts"
Katokt (2011) - 焼いたクリ- Yaita kuri - "Roasted chestnuts"

Hori, Morita, Yamanaka and Yamamoto all opt for "walnut", that is Juglans regia, a species native to Asia. Here it is literally written with the kanji for "foreign peach."

Cherry-cheeked apples

Kusano (1902) - 紅い林檎 - Kurenai ringo - "Crimson apples"
Benibara (1911) -  None
Yaguchi (1915) - 櫻色の林檎 - Sakurairo no ringo - "Cherry-coloured apples"
Nakajima (1920) - 色のいい林檎 - Iro no ii ringo - "Excellent apples of colour"
Hori (1928) - 櫻色の頬をした林檎 - Sakurairo no hoo wo shita ringo - "Apple with cherry-coloured cheeks"
Morita (1929) - 桜色の頬をしている林檎 - Sakurairo no hoo wo shite iru ringo -  "Apple with cherry-coloured cheeks"
Yamanaka (1941) - None
Yamamoto (1948) - 赤ほっぺたのりんご - Aka hoppeta no ringo - "Red-cheeked apples"
Katokt (2011) - 真っ赤なりんご - Makka na ringo - "Deep-red apples"

Juicy oranges

Kusano (1902) - 多汁した蜜柑 Mitsuguku shita mikan - "Succulent mandarin oranges"
Benibara (1911) - 瑞々した蜜柑 - Mizumizu shita mikan - "Utterly lustrous mandarin oranges"
Yaguchi (1915) - 汁多い橙 - Shiro ooi daidai - "Juicy bitter oranges"
Nakajima (1920) - 水の滴れるやうなオレンヂ - Mizu no tareru you na orenji - "Oranges” which seemed to be trickling with water."
Hori (1928) - 水氣の多い橙 - Suiki no ooi daidai - "Steamy plentiful bitter oranges"
Morita (1929) - 露気の多い蜜柑 - Tsuyuki no ooi mikan - "Plentiful dewy mandarin oranges"
Yamanaka (1941) - None
Yamamoto (1948) - つゆ氣の多いオレンジ - Tsuyuki no ooi orenji - Plentiful dewy oranges"
Katokt (2011) - 新鮮なオレンジ - Shinsen na orenji - "Fresh oranges"

The ones used in the Japanese translation are two distinct varieties of oranges:
蜜柑 - Mandarin orange - Citrus unshiu.
橙 - Bitter orange – Citrus aurantium.
Furthermore, the English loanword orenji (オレンヂ・オレンジ) is used.

Luscious pears

Kusano (1902) - 美味さう梨 - Umasou nashi - "Delicious pear"
Benibara (1911) -  旨しさうな梨 Oishiisou na nashi - "Delicious-looking pear"
Yaguchi (1915) - 甘い菓子 - Amai kashi - "Sweet cake"
Nakajima (1920) - 旨さうな梨子 - Umasou na nashi "Appetising pear"
Hori (1928) - 甘い梨 - Amai nashi - "Sweet pear"
Morita (1929) - 甘くて頬の落ちそうな梨子 - Amakute hoo no ochisou na nashi - "Pears with a sweet cheek that seemed to have just dropped"
Yamanaka (1941) - 甘そうな梨 - Amasou na nashi - "Sweet-looking pear"
Yamamoto (1948) - 甘いなし - Amai nashi - "Sweet pear"
Katokt (2011) - 甘美なナシ - Kanbi na nashi - "Luscious pear"

Yaguchi, apparently at a loss, renders the pear into confectionery. We see a variant spelling for oishii, "delicious", using the kanji 旨, most often used to write words like umai and it is also the etymon for umami, the fifth type of basic tastes that most often is described as a savoury flavour.

Immense twelfth-cakes

Kusano (1902) - 所せさまでのトウェルフス、ケエキ - Tokorosesama de no tuverifisu keeki - "Extravagant amounts of Twelfth Cake”
Benibara (1911) - 莫大なツエルブス、ケーキ - Bakudai na Tsuerebusu kêki - "Colossal Twelfth Cake"
Yaguchi (1915) - 巨きな十二日節菓子 Ooki na Toerufusukêki - "Gigantic Twelfth-cake" (lit. "gigantic 12-day-festival-cake")
Nakajima (1920) - 滅相大きなクリスマス菓子 - Messou ookina kurisumasu kashi - "Absurdly large Christmas cake"
Hori (1928) - 非常に大きな十二夜の菓子 - Hijou ni ookina juuni'ya no kashi - "Exceedingly large Twelfth Night cake"
Morita (1929) - 非常に大きなツウェルブズ・ケーク - Hijou ni ookina tsuverubuzu kêku - "Exceedingly large Twelfth Cake”
Yamanaka (1941) - None
Yamamoto (1948) - ばかでかいかざり菓子 - Bakadekai kazari kashi - "Stupidly huge ornate cake"
Katokt (2011) - とても大きなクリスマスケーキ  - Totemo ookina kurisumasukêki - "Absolutely large Christmas cake"

The Twelfth Cake is perhaps the most obscure and specific of the Christmas dishes to be featured in the Dickensian catalogue of cuisine decorating Scrooge's home. Yaguchi, who here uses jukujikun, writes out the characters for the name of the cake with 十二日節菓子, possibly to be read as juuninichisaikashi, which whilst literally meaning "cake for the 12 day festival," isn't as precise as Hori who uses the Japanese name for the Christian holiday of Twelfth Night, 十二夜, Juuni'ya, lit. "(the) twelfth night. Yaguchi's word is regardless of this given the furigana Toerufusukêki, transcribing the English word's pronunciation into Japanese, picking creativity over specificity.

Seething bowls of punch

Kusano (1902) - 煮た煮たしたポンスの壜 - Nitanitashita ponsu no bin - "Jars of seething and seething punch"
Benibara (1911) -  煮た檸檬の汁を入れた皿 Nita remon no shiru wo ireta sara - "Dishes filled with seething lemon juice"
Yaguchi (1915) - 沸騰る混合酒の椀 Takiru panchi no wan - "Wooden bowls of seething Punch (lit. "cocktails")"
Nakajima (1920) - ふつふつと泡の立ったパンチの酒〈酒の名〉の大杯 - Futsufutsu to awa no tatta panchi no sake <sake no na> no taihai - "Great glasses of Punch, the name of the alcohol, alcohol with simmering bubbles rising"
Hori (1928) - ポンス酒の泡立ってる大盃 - Ponsu sake no awadatteru taihai - "Great glasses of Punch with bubbles rising"
Morita (1929) - ポンス酒の泡立っている大盃  - Ponsu sake no awadatteiru taihai - "Great glasses of Punch with bubbles rising"
Yamanaka (1941) - あはだったポンス酒 - Awadatta ponsu sake - "Punch with bubbles rising"
Yamamoto (1948) - それに泡立っているのポンス酒の大杯 - Sore ni awadatte iru no ponsu sake no taihai - "Then there was great glasses of Punch with bubbles rising"
Katokt (2011) - いろいろなものが入っているポンチ - Iro iro na mono ga itteiru ponchi - "Various kinds of poured Punch"

Yaguchi once more at it with his jukujikun applies panchi as a reading to 混合酒 (kontonshu, "cocktail", lit. "mixed alcohol"). I had initially thought that Benibara was using some unique non-standard reading for remon, 檸檬 since the kanjis' individual readings didn't match the furigana, but it's a case of a loan-word that over time has been assigned a non-standard reading, akin to tabako (煙草, "tobacco, cigar, cigarettes", lit. "smoke herb"), which could strictly be read as ensou, but its more popular reading is derived from the Portuguese word for tobacco. Likewise 檸檬 would, if you were to take their 'proper' readings would produce neimou, but remon is the more common reading according to my web-dictionary.

Plenty's horn

Kusano (1902) - 豊年玉手箱 - Hounen tamatebako - "Tamatebako of the Fruitful Year"
Benibara (1911) - 豊年の神様が持つ玉手箱 - Hounen no kamisama ga motsu tamatebako - "Tamatebako akin to that owned by the Lord God of Fruitful Years"
Yaguchi (1915) - 山羊の角には似も付かぬ燃え盛る松明 - Yagi no tsuno ni wa ni mo tsukanu moesagaru taimatsu - A bundled blazing torch akin to a ram’s horn"
Nakajima (1920) - 手には澤山角〈希臘神話で豐饒の表象とされる角)Te ni wa takusankaku <gurisha shinwa de minori no shirushi to sareru tsuno> - "In his hand (he held a) plentiful horn <a horn that is a mark (lit. "symbol"), according to Greecian myths, of harvest ("bountiful abundance").>"
Hori (1928) - 豐饒角(五穀の神の持ってゐる山羊の角)- Houjoukaku (gokoku no kami no motte iru yagi no tsuno) - "A horn of bountiful abundance (the goat’s horn held by the God of Five Grains)"
Morita (1929) - 豊饒の角 - Houjou no tsuno - "Horn of Plenty/Cornucopia"
Yamanaka (1941) - None
Yamamoto (1948) - None
Katokt (2011) - 豊穣の角 - Houjou no tsuno  - "Horn of Plenty/Cornucopia"

The last item on the list and the torch of the jovial gigas himself, the Ghost of Christmas Present, whose appearance is closely fashioned after the figure of the Father Christmas during the Victorian periods as well as a towering man garbed in Roman-inspired raiment, complete with a wreath on his head. His symbol, the plenty's horn, or Cornucopia, has the translators annotate their choice for rendering this word. It is interesting to note that the two last words for the Cornucopia use different kanji for the second component, with said element highlighted:
の角 - lit. Horn of Abundant Bounty (also "Fertility/Fruitfulness")
の角 - lit. Horn of Bountiful Crops (also "Abudant Crops")
The latter accentuating the Cornucopia's symbol as a marker of a rich harvest, and the former denoting abundance, whilst it can literally be read, if you use the radicals of the kanji as "food/eat (食) + sublime/tall (堯)", vividly conjuring up images of tall stacks of food. Nakajima's explanation of the concept, as you will note with the bracketed readings that show their literal meaning as opposed to the fanciful jukujikun, uses the kanjis of the first word for cornucopia in Japanese, 豊饒 (modernised form), which also means - as seen above - "fruitfulness" or "fertility", again referencing its agricultural nuances, but gives it the reading minori i.e. "harvest/crop", a sort of pars per toto, here as well. The word 表象 (hyoushou, "representation/symbol") is here given the reading shirushi ("proof/mark") instead.

The first translations render the cornucopia into the tamatebako, a treasure-box that famously appears in Japanese fairy-tales such as Urashima Taro,where the protagonist after saving a turtle is granted an audience with the Dragon King and Queen of the sea and as a token of their royal magnanimity they give him a treasure box, or tamatebako - hence the translation of cornucopia into the tamatebako could very well be to tell the Japanese audience of the opulent nature of the object.

In conclusion:

We can therefore see that a great amount of creativity has gone into making these translations - since they are in effect giving the Japanese audience the first taste of otherwise unknown varieties of cuisine, having to invent new terms and apply jukujikun to convey those meanings.

I sincerely hope that everyone have a most merry, splendid and convivial winter-time, whether you call it Christmas, Yule, Festivius, Saturnalis or otherwise!

I shall now take a long and much needed winter respite.