Halloween is traditionally celebrated on the 31st of October and is primarily a celebration in the western world with some variations from one country to another. The origins of Halloween began in the middle ages when many Christians felt that All Hallows Eve (from which the name Halloween derived) was the night when the veil between the living world and that of the dead was most easily accessed.

 

The origins of Halloween in Japan

 

In Japan, Halloween is a relatively new concept with Halloween related items only first making an appearance in Harajuku shops as recently as the 1970s. The first recorded Halloween event in Japan was part of a sales promotion in 1983 when ‘kiddy land’ promoted their pumpkin parade for Harajuku Omotesando. This first Halloween event in Japan attracted around 100 people. This first parade attracted mainly foreign residents although since that initial event over subsequent years the event has grown and continues to come to the attention of Japanese residents.

 

From 1997 with the introduction of Disneyland into Japan and then Universal Studios Japan in 2002 meant that two major theme parks were actively promoting the concept of Halloween to a largely unknown Japanese market. The introduction of Halloween candy, the growing popularity of social networking, Halloween parties and children taking English classes all helped to extend Halloween’s popularity into the Japanese lifestyle.
In 2010, at central Tokyo’s Shibuya crossing so many people had gathered for an impromptu meeting that police, including riot police were mobilized to break up the gathering. It was clear from this meeting that Halloween was quickly gathering an interest particularly among the younger generations of Japanese.

 

The differences between the Japanese Halloween and events overseas
In the USA, the UK and elsewhere, children will dress up for Halloween and visit houses locally saying ‘trick or treat’ at each house they visit in the hope of getting lots of candy during their Halloween adventure. In Japan, however Halloween seems to have developed into a series of competitions such as fancy dress, cosplay and decorated pumpkins. Outside of Japan, fancy dress is usually that of a witch, devil or some other demon to create an illusion of scaring others, while in Japan the theme of Halloween is often that of dressing as a character from anime, movies or other games. Generally in Japan people participating in Halloween do not dress up in the scary costumes that you see in western countries.

 

If you visit Japan during Halloween you will find it has little or no similarities to a traditional Halloween festival and has or is evolving into its own version of this event. One thing you will find is that after a Japanese Halloween event there is lots of garbage that requires a team of workers to clear up although the event itself is a joyous occasion, enjoyed by those that attend.

 

Another difference about Halloween in Japan is the age of those that it attracts. In western countries it is mostly celebrated by younger children while in Japan it mainly attracts college students.

 

Halloween Food

 

Pumpkin, the traditional food associated with Halloween is also used in Japan. While many people believe that Halloween is an American holiday it actually begin in Ireland where potatoes are a staple food. Corcanon is mashed potato that has been mixed with herbs, onion and chives. This dish is eaten in Ireland. It is usually eaten together with boiled ham or bacon. Boxsyi is another Irish dish associated with the festival. It is a pancake of potatoes.

 

 

 

 

Cooking dishes that use pumpkin is a major part of Halloween and it is used to make pumpkin stew, pumpkin gratin, pumpkin pie and pumpkin soup. Apples are another food associated with the festival because this fruit is harvested during the autumn. Candy apples are known as toffee apples in the UK and are simply an apple on a stick covered in a sugar and water toffee.

 

In Japan cupcakes designed to look like an evil eye are popular among children as are foods designed to look like eyeballs, teeth, fingers, bones etc. Anything that looks a little scary will add to the excitement of the children.

 

Major Halloween events in Japan

 

Some of the major Halloween events to be found in Japan are:

 

Kawasaki Halloween Parade

 

This parade just outside Tokyo in Kanagawa Prefecture is one of the largest as well as being one of the most famous Halloween events in Japan. Over 2500 people attend this annual event where they can watch a parade in addition to cosplay contests and there is a Halloween themed film festival.

 

Roppongi Hills Arena

 

This Tokyo event is open to anyone that arrives in costume, they can then get candy as well as other prizes for their costume.
Hakata District
This event in Fukuoka Prefecture allows participants to walk from Hakata Riverain to the canal city in Hakata. During the afternoon they hold a costume party.

 

Shibuya

 

Shibuya in Tokyo is an adult Halloween event and the first Halloween costume contest in Japan to have been held on a train.
Yokohama Yamate Seiyoukan Halloween Walk
Here you will find a parade, an open café, face painting and candy. To enter you collect a stamp card and then go to each of the 13 locations to collect your stamps for a prize.

 

Rokko Island

 

Rokko Island in Kobe city has a selection of mini parades, some cosplay contests as well as some workshops with a Halloween theme where you can learn the art of pumpkin carving and make your own jack-o-lantern or haunted house.

 

Kitayama Halloween Festival

 

This Halloween festival located in Kyoto has several musical events, cosplay contests, pumpkin carving as well as holding parties with a Halloween theme. The event lasts all day and hosts a Halloween Food Village where you will see food stands offering a variety of Halloween snack foods and candy.

 

Harajuku Omotesando

 

The Halloween Pumpkin Parade held here has a parade of more than 1000 children, all in fancy dress. The children are given a map which the participating children can follow to find candy from stores along the route of the procession.

 

Aoyama Festival

 

This festival held under the theme of international friendship hosts on its final day a kids event where the children dress in costumes and say trick-or-treat at participating stores to get rewarded some candy.

 

The number of Halloween themed events in Japan is growing each year. Some events are celebrated the weekend before Halloween and although some of the Halloween traditions may seem a little different to those accustomed to this event in western countries it is still an enjoyable experience not to be missed.