Halloween Culture in Japan

Oct 18, 2019


Western holidays in Japan aren’t exactly known to be as grand and celebrated as they are in the west. In fact, some hold the view that holidays such as Christmas and Valentines are “simply the fondest dreams of merchants,” as described by one foreigner living in Japan. It is indeed true that western holidays in Japan are heavily commercialized with the cultural or religious components behind it often left out.

What about the Halloween then? Is it any different?

The simple answer is “no”. As Halloween in Japan is also tightly tied with merchants and businesses wanting to profit off it (estimated to be an over 1 million USD market), there is little cultural nuance in it. Especially since Japan already has a similar festival called the Obon festival, which similarly honors the spirits of the dead.

In fact, Halloween is actually a relatively ‘new thing’ in Japan. It entered Japan during the turn of the 21st century, with theme parks leading the way in introducing the event to the local Japanese. Tokyo Disneyland was effectively the trailblazer for this trend in Japan, holding a very successful Halloween event in the year 2000 before other theme parks and the wider Japanese public gradually adopted the trend.

 

Graph by Aya Kaneko

Halloween in most of Japan is also relatively mild. You don’t really see that many Halloween decorations in the streets during the season, it is mostly celebrated by only the young generation unlike Christmas and Valentines (see graph below) and ‘trick or treat-ing’ is not even a common practice here (although some do organise trick or treat events). Another interesting thing to note is that the orange “Halloween” pumpkins are not really consumed in Japan but are merely used as decorations.

Graph by Aya Kaneko

However, Halloween in Japan has it’s own peculiarity, such as the unique cosplay culture that’s fairly rampant amongst the younger generation or the street parades and parties happening in pockets of the cities . Many of you might have heard of the infamous “Shibuya Halloween”, which is held at the heart of the Shibuya district ever October 31stnight. The party, reportedly attended by over  million people last year was actually so rowdy and chaotic that the government has decided to place regulations on drinking in the area during the event, effectively banning people from drinking on the streets (although no penalties for offenders have been stated).

This is something to note as drinking in public is legal in Japan. Although drinking in the streets is generally frowned upon, it is a different story with drinking in festivals, outings such as hanami (cherry blossom viewing) are often associated with drinking, thus the fact that the government had to regulate drinking is a testament to how frenzied the party was last year.

Aside from the mess that is Shibuya Halloween, Halloween in Japan has other unique sides to it too, below are some of them:

 

  1. Jimi’ Halloween

Considering Japan’s long love for cosplaying it is no wonder that the Japanese have taken up Halloween cosplaying to their liking, actually, Halloween costumes in Japan are generally on the cuter side rather than being straight-up scary. However, this one cosplay trend is not exactly cute or scary. Jimi, a Japanese word meaning sober or plain is the word used to describe this recent costume trend and it describes exactly the grass-root fad that has taken ahold of Japanese Halloween.

Photo from. DailyportalZ

 

The guys and gals who decided to go jimi forsake glitzy costumes for the more budget friendly getups, depicting the everyday life scenes in Japan, from stressed salaryman to store clerks. This trend emerged a few years ago when some people from DailyportalZ decided to hold a dress-up party that only allows daily getups, it has then caught the attention of social media users, hitting heights in 2018.

  1. Halloween Trains

Picture from Osaka Subway

The Halloween Trains popped up in the 1990s when some expats living in Tokyo decided to throw a Halloween party inside the trains. The event then gradually became a tradition where foreigners would waste themselves away, drinking and partying, leaving a huge mess behind.

However, in 2009 a group of Japanese appeared outside of Shinjuku station, protesting and blocking people from partying inside the train. Since then, the Halloween Train have become an officially organized event where one has to sign up for and nothing like the rowdy Halloween Trains that used to haunt the Yamanote line every October 31st.


Besides Shibuya, there are many other places where the street gets festive, this is because Japanese do not really hold parties in their homes which is why many take it out into the street or the bars. The following places are a few of the more famous ones where Halloween parties are held:

  1. Disney Land & Disney Sea

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As the pioneer of Halloween events in Japan, it makes no sense to leave it out of the list. The Disney Halloween celebrations runs from early September to October 31st, where special parades, merchandise and Halloween decorations will fill both Disney Land & Sea.

There are a couple of restrictions that one needs to have in mind though. Such as restrictions to the character costume that can be worn (only Disney characters and Disney-affiliated characters are allowed) and what cannot be worn (no overly revealing costumes, no weapons, etc) for more details check out here.

2. Roppongi Hills Parade

Picture from roppongihills.com

The parade held in Roppongi ever year is free for everyone to join. This year it is going to run at the 26th of October from 10:30 to 13:30, with the theme being ‘movies’. For more details, visit here.

Aside from the parade, Roppongi also celebrates the event with special events happening in restaurants and shops.

3. Makuhari Messe Halloween Party

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Picture from Time Out

Taking place from October 26 to October 28 in Makuhari is Japan’s (supposedly) biggest Halloween party x Rock festival. It’s hosted by Hide of  L’Arc-en-Ciel and graced by the participations of Yuki, Rolly, Momoiro Clover Z, Breakerz, etc. For more information visit here.


Overall, Halloween parties are popping up everywhere all around Japan, be sure to check up the local ones near your neighbourhood and enjoy the season!

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