Do they celebrate Halloween in Japan? I didn’t know the answer to this question myself until a few weeks ago, and the answer is YES! I had a fantastic Halloween in Tokyo.
Halloween has really only come to Japan in the last five years or so, but in that short time, it has become quite big, at least in Tokyo. Halloween decorations started popping up in stores way back in September, and I was quite surprised by the popularity of the decorations. Almost every store and restaurant, from big chains to mom n’ pop shops, had some kind of Halloween decorations, and some were completely decked out. There were numerous Halloween parades and events across the city. All of the girls at my school were really excited about Halloween, but when I asked them, none of said they were going to dress up or go trick-or-treating. Some elements of the holiday that are big in the United States – trick-or-treating, carving pumpkins, and dressing up in school – have not taken hold in Japan.
Halloween was on a Monday, so I did my celebrating the Saturday night before. It was hands down one of the best Halloween celebrations of my life. I went to Shibuya, which was basically just a giant street party. It was an absolutely insane, chaotic mess, and so much fun. For my costume, I dressed up as a bat. It was definitely my most last minute and uninspired (and glitter-free) costume in years, but for the small amount of time and money I put in to it, I’m pretty happy with how it turned out. I got stared at like crazy while taking the train in my costume, but as soon as I arrived in Shibuya, I fit right in.
Due to the large amounts of people that came to Shibuya for Halloween last year, police closed off the main streets around the station to traffic. So huge swarms of people overtook the streets, most of them in costumes. I’d never seen so many people in Halloween costumes in my life.
There are no open container laws in Japan, so people were just drinking on the street… you can imagine it got a little crazy. Mostly everyone was drunk and friendly and having a great time. Random groups would come up to you and take pictures with you, drinks were shared freely, and everyone was having fun. The people went all out with their costumes too. My favorite costumes that I saw were a daikon, Family Mart and 7/11, and a Knight with armor made from beer cans and boxes.
After spending a good few hours on the streets wandering around with my friends, we headed to a club. The line was insanely long, but it was worth it. Trains in Tokyo stop super early, around midnight, which means that when you go out you have to either make sure to catch the last train at midnight, or you have to commit to staying out ALL night until the first train starts running again around 5 or 6 am. This was definitely a first-train kind of night. We danced the night away, and after stopping for some late night/early morning pizza, I got home around 7 am. It was a blast.
On actual Halloween, I worked, which was fun as well. I wore a (work-appropriate) version of my costume in my classes, and we had special Halloween lessons. In International club, we had a Halloween party, which was great. We decorated the classroom, played games, watched American Halloween movies, and ate candy. The girls were super excited about it, and I was happy to share my experience with American Halloween with them.
All in all, Tokyo showed me a great Halloween. And by the morning of November first, all of the Halloween merchandise had magically been removed from stores and replaced with Christmas stuff. Now, it’s barley the beginning of November, and Christmas has already overtaken the city!