lifestyle

Halloween in Japan: What’s different?

15 Comments
By Kyle Von Lanken

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

Halloween-in-Shibuya-Japan.jpg
The Halloween street party in Shibuya, Tokyo

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?

Halloween-in-Japan-whats-different-1024x640.jpg

Halloween-in-Japan-amazing-costumes-1024x640.jpg

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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15 Comments
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What’s different? Everything!

I call it, Jalloween

5 ( +6 / -1 )

Although i had a lot of fun in college and my early working years at Halloween parties, I still have to admit that the best part of Halloween was trick or treating as a kid. Start at all the big stores then go to the homes. Coming back home with huge bags of candy. Trying to find the best candy locations with friends.

7 ( +7 / -0 )

What is different :

group of people with exact same outfit/costume

no trick or treat ever heard of (not even sweets are part of the fun)

no tricks either

no generosity giving anything to anyone

no party at friends' place

no kids involved

no consideration of the date, 31st October, with parties anywhere anytime...

no understanding of where it comes from or what putpose it started with

alcohol involved

Costumes best.
9 ( +11 / -2 )

What is different :

group of people with exact same outfit/costume

no trick or treat ever heard of (not even sweets are part of the fun)

no tricks either

no generosity giving anything to anyone

no party at friends' place

no kids involved

no consideration of the date, 31st October, with parties anywhere anytime...

no understanding of where it comes from or what putpose it started with

alcohol involved

Costumes best.

Man, you covered all of it. Great job.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

Damn these are some pretty ladies. Heart eyes emoji.

-2 ( +1 / -3 )

The appeal of Halloween in Japan lies in two things: commercialism and costumes

no need to waste our time reading the whole thing . . . that,s all we need to know actually.

it,s all about commercialism, just like Christmas. it pretty much comes down to two things: stores selling all kinds of products and decorations everywhere.

the rest is just (mostly young) people that end up not knowing what to do, that,s why we got the booze and "riots" going on. i,m a young guy and i don,t (want to?) understand why those people need to do those kind of things.

there,s no real Halloween in Japan. i still remember, when i was a kid, going out at night with my friends, knocking on doors, sometimes(!) we ended up throwing things at people and their houses (hey we were kids), (scary) movie marathons and so on...

anyway, just like Christmas, Japanese don,t even know the meaning of October 31st and December 25th. ok December 25th i,m sure everybody knows but they just don,t care, that,s the thing. Japanese are not Christians, yes, but it,s all about profit here and things shouldn,t (or don,t need to) be so hollow.

so, what,s different? pretty much everything.

4 ( +5 / -1 )

why those people need to do those kind of things.

(to be more specific) - Shibuya - (just) drinking, standing, being perverts, destroying things... is that Halloween? (like i said, people end up not knowing what to do)

3 ( +3 / -0 )

In my neighborhood in Shinjuku, kids dressed in costumes go in groups from shop to shop, not to individual residences like the US. But this is a kind of publicity activity for the local mom and pop shops. The kids will like to shop there based on these expreiences of their youth.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

It's funny. 10 years or so ago, they didn't even know what Halloween was.

Nobody can ramp up a trend from 0-60 in 0 seconds like the Japanese.

7 ( +7 / -0 )

no kids involved

no consideration of the date, 31st October, with parties anywhere anytime...

no understanding of where it comes from or what putpose it started with

alcohol involved

The first half about kids was spot on, but the second half quoted above pretty much describes Halloween in any big US city. It's an adult themed party with alcohol, nudity and general pervy fun.

And I doubt that one in 100 Americans can tell you where Halloween originated or what its original purpose was. And even fewer than that care.

Americans complaining that Japanese don't do Halloween right is rich. Imagine some old Irish Celtics discussing how Americans don't do All Hallows Eve right, as they don't properly worship the dead in a Catholic ceremony. In fact, the Americans have it completely wrong. And the Japanese version has the American version about 20% wrong.

Live and let live, folks. You didn't invent Halloween, you don't own the rights to it. Enjoy it or stay home.

-1 ( +2 / -3 )

My annual posting of a link to Robert Burns' Halloween poem. (from 1785 or so)

http://www.robertburns.org/works/74.shtml

Happy guising!

2 ( +2 / -0 )

With cosplay becoming more popular in America over the past 30 years there's been an overlap. When I was in college we didn't 'trick or treat' anymore but the costume parties were fun. And a few years ago I went to a Shonen Knife show where many attendees wore cosplay getup. The lady rockers were dressed up like they stepped right out of the 'Jetsons' TV cartoon series. And so it goes.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

the feeling of avoiding 迷惑 めいわくをかける (or “being a pain/bother to someone else) 

What a load of nonsense, it’s amazing. The reality is the complete opposite. Japanese people with the way the Japanese society is defined and organized have an incredible sense of inflicting annoyance and harassment to each other.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

That’s one aspect of Japanese society. Another is exactly what was written - they avoid causing a disturbance.

If you think that’s incorrect, you really don’t understand this society.

Cultures are dynamic. They can have many different aspects.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Trick or treating doesn't cause disturbance.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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