Japan starts getting ready for Halloween…in August?!?

By Casey Baseel, RocketNews24

As a kid, I loved Halloween. My brother and I would go all out decorating the house with tombstones, cobwebs, and corpses made out of old clothes stuffed with newspapers. Plus, how can you not like a holiday that gives you not only free candy, but an excuse to stay up past your bedtime eating it too?

So I’ve been happy to see how whole-heartedly Japan has been embracing Halloween, which each year seems to get bigger and bigger here. Some neighborhood shopping arcades have started inviting trick-or-treaters and passing out candy, and there are now multiple costume parades in the Tokyo area. As a matter of fact, Japan is so psyched for Halloween this year that stores started selling decorations in August.

About a week ago I was up to my usual jet-setting expat escapades (shopping at 100-yen store chain Daiso). But while I was living the high life by picking up a pack of sandwich bags, I noticed this display at the front of the store.

Even though it was still August and I was sweating from the summer heat, Daiso is planning two months ahead with a wide variety of Halloween decorations, party supplies, and costume accessories.

Considering that many communities and theme parks in Japan now have some sort of Halloween festivities, this two-month head start on getting ready for Halloween is now no shorter than the period spent gearing up for Christmas. But then again, maybe my local Daiso just happens to be run by a manager who really likes Halloween, right? So to see if this was an isolated incident, I walked the couple of blocks to my neighborhood’s other 100-yen shop, which is part of the Silk chain where I found an entirely different, but no less extensive, lineup of jack o’-lanterns, witches hats, and “devil katyushas.”

And just to make sure this wasn’t a purely localized phenomena of Halloween fever overtaking my little corner of Yokohama, I decided to check on a Daiso branch in Kawasaki, and sure enough, number of its shelves were filled with all manner of festive orange, black, and purple (Japan’s honorary third Halloween color) items.

This being Japan, there’s a bit of a localized twist to a lot of the wares. For example, trick-or-treating still hasn’t become mainstream enough that you’ll need a pillowcase to carry your haul, and even the plastic jack-o’-lanterns and goodie bags are more modestly sized than their American counterparts.

There are also a couple of uniquely Japanese items. For example, full-sized orange pumpkins are kind of hard to come by in Japan, but 100-yen shops have a handy substitute in the form of these paper lanterns with jack-o’-lantern faces.

Daiso’s halos and angel wings were kind of a surprise, but I guess they do make for a nice thematic balance with the “devil katyushas.”

It’s not like this is simply a matter of Japan having decided that summer is already completely over and done with, either. Next to the Halloween decorations Daiso had an array of paper fans, and Silk had positioned its merchandise right next to the food and plastic cages for beetles, which Japanese kids usually hunt and collect during the summer months.

But why is Halloween’s popularity skyrocketing in Japan? Odds are it’s due to a variety of factors. After cherry blossom season in the spring and summer festivals, there aren’t a lot of fun events in the fall, so Halloween is a good excuse for a little high-energy leisure. There’s also the fact that Halloween combines dressing up in costume (i.e. cosplay) and eating sweets, two things Japan is crazy about. And last but not least, unlike Christmas, which in Japan is mainly a holiday for serious couples (or at least sophisticated social gatherings), Halloween is more about simply having a good time while acting a little silly.

Add in the fact that you can now decorate your home and deck yourself out for just a couple hundred yen, and it’s not hard to see why so many people can’t wait for Halloween, and aren’t waiting for summer to end before they start getting ready for it.

Read more stories from RocketNews24. -- Special Halloween treats from familiar companies in Japan -- Late to the game, but Japan does Halloween right -- Halloween lashes from the 100 yen store will add a bit of spook to your eyes

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Just returned from Canada, and many shops already had their Halloween decorations and candy out as well. It seems everybody is jumping the gun these days, and trying to sell as much as they can. What did shock me was that the local Ito Yokado already has their Christmas tree up! Now that is pushing things.

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

Just proving how utterly devoid f meaning so many western festivals and holidays are here. Forget Halloween, even, they're already having Christmas events!

1 ( +3 / -2 )

It's September.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Hey it's better than where I'm from, Sams Club is already putting up Christmas decorations for sale.

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Yep, I saw these Halloween displays in August too. The massive jumping of the gun of western festivals that have little meaning to the average Japanese person is the main reason I've gone almost anti-Halloween in recent years. I used to be somewhat indifferent to it and when I first came to Japan, it was pretty insignificant here, but in recent years it's pushed in such a forced manner - earlier and earlier. Plus, there's the fact that I come from a country where Halloween isn't that big a deal, but in the last 5 years or so I've occasionally got comments from mostly younger Japanese folk along the lines of, "But you are western. Don't you love Halloween?"

Anyway, you know what will happen on the eve of October 31st? Shops will tear down their Halloween stuff to replace them with Christmas gear.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

I just enjoy any festival especially Japanese Festivals. 12 months ago I was working and living in Ito Shizouka Prefecture and locals were celebrating the Ajin Festival. I was driving up to Atami to pick up my partner from work and as I was pass Ajiro Beach (The same Ajoro that features in the book Shogun). There a was a big Festival taking place in the beach side park with a glorious Dashi. I decide to take a video of the event. Has I was filming, a hugh local grab and push into Dashi carrying team, soon the was I chanting and dancing while carry this Dashi . It really made me feel part of the of there Festival

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Who cares? If people are making money out of it, good luck to them.

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

The person who gave me a thumb down really need to give themselves a self evaluation to work out why they dislike a happy festival or event. I feel sad for you.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

Costco in Japan, have had Halloween goods on display since the end of July .

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Japan is also the country that holds beer festivals all year round called "Oktoberfest". Years ago an enterprising retailer down south also confused Easter and Christmas, and proceeded to crucify Santa on the side of a building. Crown of thorns and all. As such, jumping the gun on Halloween might be forgiven.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

Holding festivals in country where it is out of place and does not form part of the culture seems weird to me. I hate to be seen as a kill joy, but the day when Japanese kids do trick or treat for no other reason that American children do it is really quite depressing.

Japan already has plenty of its own festivals (of the dead). Does it really need to ape a now commercial festival that has its roots in pre-Christian Britain and Ireland?

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Ok kill joy, look at this way. More consumer spending is better for the overall economy, better for you and me, and better for there future. Trick or treat!!!

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'Japan already has plenty of its own festivals (of the dead). Does it really need to ape a now commercial festival that has its roots in pre-Christian Britain and Ireland?'

It doesn't need to but people make money out of it and some people seem to enjoy it.

Making money and enjoying yourself are good things. As you said, it's now a commercial festival. Why can't others join in?

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

Not so surprising that Japan are growing to celebrate Halloween when it's probably like a 'cosplay day' for them.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Yeah, cuz people will buy it. Stores wouldn't put it on display if it didn't sell.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

There's nothing wrong with looking forward to to a fun festivity. Celebrate the dead by having fun in your life! So what if it originated in the west? It fits in with Japanese culture and their love of ghost stories right up.

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

Hongo: you should took a pic, man that real funny i am rolling around laughing.Please don,t tell me that it was out side a bottle lol

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It fits in with Japanese culture and their love of ghost stories right up.

No really. Why aren't there haunted houses set up everywhere and loud, wild adult Halloween parties going on all night long? Why don't kids go to school in a costume? Trick' treat n' their own neighborhoods, door to door. . . . ?

The Japanese know 'nada' about how to celebrate Halloween.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

Maria m : yes Japanese have long had a culture deep in Yokai, Yokai methology would compliment Halloween. Yokai big in the Manga. So today generation might see the the two mar together and became bigger here then in the states.

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Just proving how utterly devoid f meaning so many western festivals and holidays are here.

Yes, I prefer the deep meaning of Halloween in the US. It signifies a very important....ah never mind.

Well, at least we have Christmas. Late December was a pagan celebration with drunkenness and lewdness until Dickens wrote a story to change all that in the mid-19th century. In the 20th century, Coco-Cola added the popular version of Santa Claus decked out in red and white. And nothing fills us with a deep sense of meaning like fighting the mobs at Walmart on Black Friday.

Really, things have the meaning you give them. I find Japanese holidays no more superficial than Western holidays. Maybe even less so.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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