Halloween in Japan – Cultural Mismatching?

  • For many foreigners, Japan is an exciting and eclectic mix of culture. Having lived in Japan for over a year, I still get nervous when I have to perform everyday cultural etiquette, like giving the correct bow to a customer or handing over my business card politely. I think many foreign residents and tourists in Japan deal with this fear and also make their best effort to fit in with the culture. However, nothing makes us foreigners wonder quite so much as seeing echoes of own culture in Japan.

    New Traditions

    Halloween, Christmas and Valentines day bare striking resemblances to home and yet, for all the accurate decorations, they are sadly not our own. However, embracing these changes and pursuing them can open us up to what Japan has to offer. Take Halloween, it appears to have racked up a reputation for being both very foreign and very troublesome. One only has to look up the Yamanote Halloween train to see that. Now, though many of my Japanese friends have been proclaiming recently, Halloween is becoming more popular. Disney and USJ both thrive on the business created by the holiday. Disney Sea has proclaimed its theme to be villains, in honour of the occasion, and USJ is combining western horror, such as A Nightmare on Elm Street and Ju-on. And, if the pull of the haunted house can’t thrill you then there are so many other options.

    A Cultural Talent

    Last year, Shibuya was awash with thousands of Halloween participants. Costumes tended to favour zombies; Sailor Moon zombies, Pikachu zombies and a hoard of Disney Princess zombies. It was far from the traditional disguising, or American ‘Trick-or-Treating’. There were no excess of sweets, no kids running around and no one forced me to dunk my head into a basin of water to catch apples. It was a night purely for the young and wild of Tokyo to show off their amazing talent and dedication for costumes. A more colourful and inviting spectacle you could not hope to enjoy. If you want to see the raw talent and effort that the Japanese have brought to Halloween, this is where to go.

    How to choose where to go?


    There are so many choices in Japan, in regards to Halloween. Most kids activity clubs will have some form of Halloween party and amusement parks are a popular option. Adults can choose from a wide range of parties and styles. Halloween week sees most clubs add a costume theme, like Super ‘Heroes & Villains’. Nichome area in Tokyo offers a host of options for Tokyo’s gay community and Roppongi has the monopoly on a more foreign style Halloween. So, not to be outdone, this year my friends and I will once again dawn our Halloweenie best before heading to Shibuya for the witching hour!

    Featured image: jp.fotolia.com/

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