Years ago, Halloween was just another day in the Land of the Rising Sun. No costumes, no candy, and few decorations. ALTs (Assistant Language Teachers) had to explain the ideas to eager Japanese students, and occasionally donned costumes that confused and perplexed locals. More than once, I have seen a foreigner in a full-on Doraemon costume riding a bicycle to school at 7:30 AM.
Now, it’s a whole new world. The internationalization bug has hit Japan full force, and with it, all the strange Halloween customs have arrived.
Decorations usually go on sale immediately after Obon, if not before, around the 1st of August. 100 Yen shops are full of options. For more elaborate decorations, Don Quijote and Tokyo Hands are great. Of course, there is always Amazon Japan to help you out, what with their English menus and all.
Halloween parties used to be the thing of Eikawa schools and international kindergartens. Not anymore! Bars, pubs, even restaurants are openly embracing Halloween as a chance to get customers in the door – crazy costumes and all. Free drinks, discounts for costumes, and Best Costume contests have taken over. Even the smallest city in Nippon will have a few Halloween party offerings for you, especially if the establishment already caters to the foreign crowd.
The crazier the better seems to be the theme these days. The costume trend closely mimics the west, with basic ghosts and witches for kids, as well as yearly trends. This year, the trend seems to be Minions. For a more “adult” theme, sexy nurse or school girl costumes, and handsome Draculas seem to be in favour, as well as any reference to major movies or international TV shows. Think Breaking Bad. With an explanation card attached.
Sadly, orange pumpkins are still not a big thing in Japan. In the end, a Japanese カボチャ (squash) may just have to suffice. You can find a few in random supermarkets especially in rural areas, at Costco or other online stores catering to foreigners.
For extra Halloween delight, you can see the following link below, the Halloweenesque video by the illustrious Kyary Pamyu Pamyu. Of course, it is in Japanese, but you can get the idea.