How Japan Celebrates Halloween…

© J // Washing Rice Blog

Halloween decorations often sold at 100 yen stores.
© J // Washing Rice Blog

…or more like how it pretty much doesn’t!  There’s not much going on unless you’re a club or party type living in a bigger city, or want to buy a bunch of cute knick knacks to decorate your house with.  You really have to actively go out of your way to find something fun to do.

Japanese companies mainly use the holiday as another marketing ploy to get you to buy stuff you probably don’t need, especially sweets.

Here’s one for Mister Donuts, a popular (read: just about the only) donut chain in Japan:

© Mister Donut

Mister Donuts Halloween 2013 Hello Kitty Collaboration
©2003-2013 Mister Donut

© J // Washing Rice Blog

They even come in this adorable box and with a Hello Kitty doll.
© J // Washing Rice Blog

Japan’s a relatively safe country, so you’d think it would be ideal for trick or treating.  The only problem is that candy doesn’t come in bulk, and even if it did, it’d be too expensive for people to want to stock up on and hand out for free.  Adding to that, most people live in apartments.  Even for those living in houses, they’re so jam-packed together you’d be getting way more foot traffic (and need more candy to give out) than back in the U.S.  The final nail in the coffin (no pun intended), is that Japanese people really don’t look favorably upon strangers knocking on their door.  Door-to-door sales and Jehovah’s Witnesses are treated with about as much disdain here as they are in any other country, and Halloween hasn’t been “trendy” long enough for the older generation to see it much more than one of those weird things some younger people do.

When I first came to Japan and was living in Tokyo, the big thing to do on Halloween was hop on the Yamanote Line in costume and drink/converse with other foreigners and Japanese people on board as the train made its never-ending loop around the city.

Over these past odd years it’s faded away due to the abundance of police security and angry Japanese netizens using the date as a forum for protesting about how much they hate foreigners.  This is why we can’t have nice things. 😦

I’m not saying it’s OK for people to be rude on the train, but it’s only one night of noisiness compared to say, Japanese political campaign trucks screaming out your window at ungodly hours in the morning for weeks on end during election season. 😉

Still, even if you can’t party on the train or don’t feel like barhopping/clubbing, that doesn’t mean you can’t throw a proper party yourself.  Places like Don Quixote sell imported costumes, usually at a marked up price, and in Japanese size S/M only.  If you find that won’t cut it they also sell pajama suits, called kigurumi, of popular animals and animated characters that work just as well.

© Christine Madsen

Some of the different kinds of kigurumi sold at Don Quixote.
© Christine Madsen

With some great music, drinks, and eats you’d be set.  Not sure what to make?  How about some Halloween sushi?

And if you’re lucky enough to live near a big city that throws a parade, why not participate?  The Kawasaki Halloween Parade is the biggest annual Halloween event in the country.  Other recent newcomers include the Hello Halloween Pumpkin Parade in Harajuku and the Hakata Halloween Kasō Parade in Fukuoka.  Even some smaller cities are starting to get on the Halloween bandwagon.  Here’s a small event the next city over from me puts on.  Another way you can get involved is by volunteering to help any local English school or class events that may be going on.

© Mishima Machizukuri Kabushiki Gaisha

A local halloween trick-or-treating event.
© Mishima Machizukuri Kabushiki Gaisha

So what are you doing for Halloween this year?  Whatever it may be, stay safe and have fun!

-J

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