Where to celebrate Halloween in Japan

My name is Kanako Morishita. For the next two years, I will be working as a Japan Outreach Initiative (JOI) Coordinator for JCMU. My goal is to introduce aspects of Japanese culture to you and many others outside of Japan – and for today, I discuss where you can go to celebrate Halloween in Japan.

Halloween is almost here!

It’s been almost two months since I arrived in Michigan. The color of maples leaves are changing, and colder temperatures are just around the corner.

I had an opportunity to visit Japan in early September for 10 days as a part of the Michigan-Shiga Goodwill Mission. It felt a little bit strange returning to my home country as a “visitor.” However, what spooked me even more was seeing Halloween goods at several retail shops in Japan.

Halloween? In Japan?? 

As you may know, Halloween isn’t a holiday traditionally celebrated in Japan. There are no stories of Tokyo kids going from home to home in search of sweets, nor are there any old Japanese ghost stories associated with All Hallows’ Eve. A family of four doesn’t typically sit down together a week beforehand to carve their own jack-o-lanterns. So why in the world is Halloween growing in popularity there?

Much like with Christmas in Japan, the reason lies with the growing influence of American culture. Many of us love modifying certain Western holidays to fit our society. Trick-or-treat? Maybe not, but we’ll certainly take the costume idea!

The Japanese Halloween market is like an ever-growing monster, its major effects on the economy constantly expanding. According to one Japanese newspaper, turnover for the Halloween market in Japan exceeded 1.22 billion yen (~$1.08 billion USD) in 2015 – almost 3.2 times higher than it was in 2010. Spooky for both you and your wallet!

So then, how exactly do people in Japan celebrate Halloween these days?

Let me introduce you to a few popular Halloween spots around the country:

  1. Shibuya intersection

Mighty Morphin’ Shibuya Rangers!

Shibuya is one of the most famous fashion districts in Tokyo among young people. Around half a million people walk through the ward’s busiest intersection every day!

As you might expect, the young fashionistas of Shibuya absolutely eat up the idea of wearing a themed outfit for a holiday. During the Halloween weekend, the road is closed off to cars, and pedestrians garbed in various horror costumes storm the streets. Parties and events take place all day long and even into the night, leaving the already-busy area even more densely crowded. So if you want to meet a lot of new Japanese friends in a short period of time, Shibuya’s Halloween celebration might be a good option.

  1. Theme parks (Tokyo Disneyland / Universal Studio Japan)

Tokyo Disneyland’s got the jack-o-lantern thing down (photo by PeterPanFan)

If you’re looking to combine frights and rides, consider making a Japanese theme park your final Halloween destination. Theme parks in Japan love getting into the spooky holiday atmosphere.

You definitely can’t miss Tokyo Disneyland’s and Universal Studio Japan’s events! Generally lasting from the beginning of September until the end of October, they have Halloween parades, interesting new goods and foods for sale, and they put on amazing horror-themed performances. Through this, you can enjoy the Halloween atmosphere all day long at a Japanese theme park. Needless to say, if you come into the theme park wearing a costume, you will certainly enjoy your time there even more!

  1. Local parades all across Japan

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Kawasaki Halloween Party (Photo by Hideya Hamano)

Celebrations throughout the country are getting more popular as a way to promote local communities and businesses. Unlike the wild parties for young adults in Shibuya, these events are more toned down and family-friendly. Check your local area’s various websites and postings to see if there are any Halloween events around you while you’re in Japan!

All about the costumes

As you might have noticed, these events are all related to costume-wearing. While Americans wear costumes as well, it’s truly the focal point of a Japanese Halloween celebration. If you want to experience how another culture’s twist on the late-October holiday, then get into your zombie persona and have a blast!

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