In anticipation for Halloween night in Shibuya, the Tokyo Metropolitan police will be out in force. The 800 officers dispatched to the area are a 4-fold increase over last year. During which, notes Nikkan Gendai (Oct 28), only two people were arrested.
This is, after all, only supposed to be fun for the kids, and the sight of middle-aged adults decked out in costumes is likely to be an even bigger turnoff than the sight of real ghosts or zombies, the writer remarks tongue-in-cheek.
What the heck is going on -- with all those giggling ghouls gallivanting about Tokyo?
"At times when the masses are shaken by extreme events, Japanese will want to dance or hold festivals," notes history author Kozo Kaku. This may go toward explaining the unnatural popularity of Halloween."
Kaku thinks Halloween may be a contemporary version of what was known as the "Ee ja nai ka" movement. A refrain in popular songs that translates as "Who gives a damn?" or "What the hell?" "Ee ja nai ka" caught on during spontaneous social/political protests in the mid-1860s, near the end of the Edo Period.
"During those uncertain times, people would put on outlandish costumes and cavort crazily in the streets," Kaku explains. "While North Americans or Europeans would confront uncertainties or social inequality with demonstrations or riots, Japanese would try to relieve their anxieties by dancing, reflecting an old belief that noisy worship can win forgiveness for people under a curse.
"So rather than attacking others, people just work up a good sweat by dancing and by so doing dispel their anxieties."
Although unrelated to Halloween, the popularity of "danceable" popular songs by Tetsuya Komuro in the late 1990s and Hikaru Utada from the beginning of the century -- both periods of economic slumps, may confirm this theory.
"If you look at it from another perspective, Halloween's popularity in Japan may reflect the prescience that the world is getting worse and worse," Kaku points out. "There are things like the new defense guidelines, or the introduction of the My Number system, or the prospect that life will become more difficult due to higher taxes and so on, and when viewed together, suggest that life is on a downward spiral.
"People feel more vulnerable, and their response to this is to take to the streets and dance."
It may seem a bit far-fetched, but just think, for a moment: wouldn't groups of costumed revelers in Shibuya on Saturday make a dandy target for international terrorists? Nikkan Gendai (Oct 30) refuses to rule it out. True, the police are expected to mobilize 800 officers, but that is aimed merely at keeping the exuberant youth in line.
"As one example, on October 25, a violent melee broke out between Turks and Kurds outside the Turkish embassy," says a police source. "The mere fact that large numbers of foreigners will be converging for Halloween is one more reason why we have to be on guard for possible acts of terrorism,"
Motoaki Kamiura, an authority on military affairs, agrees that Saturday night would be an opportune time for someone to make trouble. And since people are costumed, "it becomes impossible to tell Japanese apart from foreigners. Likewise it will be all the more difficult to spot someone carrying a suspicious package."
Kamiura also notes that with Islamic State fighters and their sympathizers spreading to the far corners of the globe, acts like suicide bombings cannot necessarily be ruled out, even in Japan.
Hopefully this Halloween night, something wicked won't be coming.© Japan Today