Yes, they do!
Halloween is almost upon us, but what exactly does that mean in Japan? Though Halloween is a decidedly American holiday more and more countries around the world are beginning to celebrate it in their own ways, and Japan is no exception. While it’s still not the national festival-for-all-ages that it is in America, you can find your share of parades, costume parties, and events.
Halloween in Japan first gained popularity when Tokyo Disneyland started holding Halloween events in the late 90s. Those events have continued ever since and have expanded across the whole country.
SO what exactly do they do for Halloween in Japan?
Costumes Parties? Yes!
Halloween in Japan is known as “a day on which adults can wear costumes.” Though certainly many adults do wear costumes in America, the focus of Halloween is much more on children dressing up and going trick-or-treating. One of the most famous parades in Japan today is the Kawasaki Halloween Parade which takes place at the JR Kawasaki station in Kanagawa prefecture. There is a parade, a costume contest with awesome prizes, a film festival, and this year even a showing of The Rocky Horror Picture Show! Funny that this year it was held the weekend BEFORE Halloween, even though Halloween falls on a Saturday. Many adults will also throw costume parties around this time of year, known as 仮装パーティー (kasō pātī).
Haunted Houses? Yes and No.
During the month of October, many people in America will visit haunted houses and other scary events. October is the time for all things scary in America! While Japan does boast a world-famous haunted house at the base of Mt. Fuji, Halloween isn’t the time to go get scared. In fact, the summer months in Japan are the traditional time to visit haunted houses, or お化け屋敷 (obakeyashiki).
Trick-or Treating? Maybe a little.
At least not in the traditional sense. Children in costumes will not wander around their neighborhood knocking on doors in hopes of filling a bag with candy. However, candy will be given out to children on Halloween at various parties and events. And the children of course still say “トリック オア トリート” (“Torikku oa toriito”). While many countries around the world begin to adopt Halloween festivities, it seems trick-or-treating remains a Western tradition. Though Japan does boast a Halloween event for children hosted by the yakuza…what could be more scary than that?
Pumpkin Carving? Not so much.
I guess some Japanese people got a little confused about pumpkin carving and decided it was better just to eat the pumpkins instead! In Japan they use a green kabocha squash in lieu of a traditional orange pumpkin, and they make many delicious kabocha treats, especially cookies! Autumn is also a time for all things pumpkin flavored in the west (think pumpkin spice lattes) but the western pumpkin spice is a much different flavor than Japanese kabocha.
Is there any holiday that big corporations won’t jump to make some money off of? Of course not! So just like people spend money on costumes, candy, crazy house decorations, and big jack o’laterns in America, Japanese companies market for Halloween as well. Of course there is Halloween Hello Kitty holding Godiva chocolates! Stores all around Japan will start selling costumes and decorations for the fun-filled holiday for as one Japanese person put it: “It’s much more about decoration than celebration.”
So maybe in Japan they don’t believe All Hallow’s Eve is the one night the dead can roam the streets with the living…but they certainly do believe in having a party and LOTS of yummy treats!