This weekend is Halloween, an American tradition that grew out of a Gaelic, pre-Christian harvest festival in Ireland. Of course, today Halloween is celebrated all over the world, and Japan is no exception. After all, the Japanese aren’t going to give up the chance to dress up and have fun! But as with other traditions, Japan has is making Halloween its own.
Halloween in Japan is going to be big this year - it is estimated to be over a billion dollars (122 billion yen), which is huge, even compared with Valentine’s Day, which is 125 billion yen. But on Halloween, even though people dress up, “trick-or-treating” is still very rare. In fact, one of the few organizations to cater to trick or treaters cancelled their celebration this year. But don’t be too disappointed. That organization is the Yamaguchi-Gumi branch of the Japanese Yakuza; they have traditionally given out candy and sweets to children on Halloween, although this year they cancelled their celebration due to an internal….dispute within the organization.
Dressing up and having a great time is plenty popular, though. Last last weekend, 3,000 people staged a costume parade in Tokyo’s Roppongi district that drew 98,000 spectators, while at a separate event near JR Kawasaki Station 2,500 people in costume attracted 110,000 spectators, according to organizers. This weekend, online video-sharing service Nico Nico (originally Nico Nico Douga) is organizing a “cosplay” costume event at multiple locations in Tokyo’s Ikebukuro district that will be streamed simultaneously online. Meanwhile, local celebrations are scheduled across the nation, including in Sapporo, Osaka, Yokohama, Nagoya, Fukuoka and Okinawa.
The Kawasaki parade, which had a Star Wars theme to celebrate the upcoming December release of the seventh film in George Lucas’s popular series. Some Star Wars nebuta floats from the Aomori Nebuta Matsuri held in August were on hand to liven up the proceedings, and around 2,500 costumed participants came to the Kawasaki streets from a galaxy far, far away to show off their cosplay skills. In Shiubya and Roppongi, the crowds were so large that the Tokyo Metropolitan Police even deployed their famous “DJ Policeman” to direct the crowds. He became famous during the FIFA world cup qualification and is now a celebrity public servant in his own right. Here he is directing crowds at the world famous Shibuya crossing.
The growth appears to really have started to explode about five years ago. Today, Amazon.co.jp, one of the nation’s biggest online retailers, expects an increase in sales this year through its Halloween store section. It said orders for children’s costumes had peaked earlier in recent years, prompting its decision to open the Halloween section on Aug. 28. Meanwhile, 7-11 has created Halloween sections at all of its Ito-Yokado supermarket outlets. Tokyo Disneyland, seen as a driving force behind Halloween’s surge in Japan, is expecting a spike in guests over the weekend, and visitors have been encouraged to wear Disney-themed costumes all week.
Want to learn more about Halloween in Japan?
Check out this video, designed by Nonalog, a group in Japan, to teach Japanese people all about Halloween
The Japan Times
The Daily Beast