There is a persistent urban legend that a Japanese department store got confused and crucified Santa Claus in a Christmas display. Today's BBC Magazine:

Remembering our mongrel Christmases reminds me of the Tokyo department store which erected on its roof a giant Santa on a cross. Don't laugh - we can all get our wires crossed. And who's to say the store wasn't crucifying Santa as a gesture of multicultural goodwill?

Snopes lists a whole bunch of other reports and the story has certainly been around for a while: I seem to recall first reading about this in Jack Seward's The Japanese (1972), although Google Books disagrees. In any case, did a Japanese department store actually ever crucify Santa?

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    While I did not witness this myself, it was related to me directly from a friend who had seen it, along with some other stories of his visit to Japan. This would have been in 1988. This was well before I recall this story having circulated, and I told it so often I may have been one of the originators of this story. I've been trying to track him down for years, may have just found his email. He might even have a photo... – John Kuo Jan 12 '18 at 0:03
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    @JohnKuo If there's an actual photo then please provide it! Anything else is just hearsay. – GordonM Dec 27 '18 at 9:46

As Snopes says, this is a legend with no photographic evidence behind it, and no specific place or year when it was seen. It is almost certainly false, and I agree with their logic:

... the mixing of Christian crucifixion iconography and Santa Claus is an unlikely pairing, even to non-Christians. Nativity scenes, not crucifixes, are the religious displays featured at Christmastime, and anyone with the least bit of thoughtfulness would have to wonder why a smiling, happy, jolly figure would be depicted hanging from boards with nails driven through his hands and feet. Santa Claus in a creche might be a plausible mistake (there are claims that figures such as the Seven Dwarfs have been spotted standing in for the Three Wise Men in various parts of the world), but a crucified Santa challenges credulity. As parody it's believable; as an honest mistake we find it implausible.

Furthermore, Santa and Christmas were already well-known in Japan due to foreign literature like Dickens, and the persistent and futile efforts of missionaries to convert the locals. Christmas was a national holiday from 1927-1947 since it happened to coincide with the death of Emperor Taisho in 1926. The idea that by the postwar period, when this supposedly happened, there were still designers in Japan unfamiliar with Santa seems terribly unlikely.

Here's Japanese Santa doing his job in 1916:

enter image description here

How did he get in without a chimney? That's a mystery no skeptic can solve.

Postscript: When you Google these keywords, you will more likely than not see this photo: enter image description here

This is a photomontage made by a Japanese artist specifically attempting to recreate the legend for artistic effect. Here's the original source (note that clicking "Next" goes to a NSFW image).


Snopes, linked in the OP and the accepted answer, says:

the earliest reports of this legend we’ve found so far all stem from the early 1990s.

However, the 1986 The sun at noon: an anatomy of modern Japan says:

Otherwise, Christianity in Japan seems more a victory for Santa Claus than for Christ and one Tokyo department store actually put Santa, in its Christmas display, on the cross!

Furthermore, The Economist (1986) states:

Last December, one Tokyo store was decorated with a huge neon cross bearing a crucified Santa.

  • So the legend is a bit older than Snopes says, but neither article is proof that this actually ever happened. – lambshaanxy Jan 19 '18 at 20:18
  • @jpatokal It's not absolute proof, but it is two credible references. – DavePhD Jan 19 '18 at 20:23
  • But what store was it? And if this really happened in 1985 in the world's most populous city, why are there no photos? – lambshaanxy Jan 19 '18 at 20:28
  • If you want to follow this up, here's some people supposedly reporting on it from a decade after the fact... Mr. Kuss can be found on LinkedIn groups.google.com/forum/#!original/rec.arts.tv.mst3k.misc/… – Avery Jan 20 '18 at 2:42
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    This is just a note that last holiday season I used a bit of social engineering to obtain Mr. Kuss's email, but he did not reply to me. – Avery Apr 5 at 4:01

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