With Halloween coming up, I’ve had several friends ask me questions about how the holiday is conducted in Japan. “Is it any different from how we do it?” they ask.
Long story short, the answer is “yes”.
Within the past ten years, Japan as a whole has shown a gradual increase of interest in Halloween, and with that an increase in commercial hype. Scenery, visuals, and costumes that used to only be available for spectating at Tokyo Disneyland have become more common, but not as one might expect from western countries.
Trick or treating rarely happens in Japan
Almost always, the first thing people want to know is, “is there trick or treating?” Most definitely, when many of us westerners think of Halloween, it is the first thing we think of. However, the practice of going from house to house, saying “trick or treat” and accumulating mass quantities of candy is non-existent here.
In my estimation, this lack of trick or treating in Japan is not going to change any time soon, and here is why: as I have mentioned before, the feeling of avoiding 迷惑 めいわくをかける (or “being a pain/bother to someone else) is far too strong in Japanese people. Having to go around to people’s houses to gather candy would be a huge inconvenience to many.
Instead, Halloween in Japan is all about dressing up
So if there isn’t trick or treating in Japan, what Halloween is there to be had in the land of the rising sun?
The appeal of Halloween in Japan lies in two things: commercialism and costumes. Many fanatics of “cosplay” (costume play) find the idea of dressing up very appealing, and this is an especially popular mindset among those is Harajuku and the otaku (geek) crowd in general.
Taking this into consideration, this means that Halloween ends up being mostly for adults who want to dress-up. Costume parties become a focus for places serving alcohol and the like around late October.
The scramble crossing in Shibuya used to be the place to party with over 70,000 drunk people crowding its streets annually. Unfortunately, after a truck was overturned amongst the chaos last year, public drinking will be banned in Shibuya during the Halloween season. It’ll be interesting to see how things play out this year.
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