Sunday, October 6, 2013

Fourth Annual October is Spookey Month: Does Halloween exist in Japan?

"Does Halloween exist in Japan?" or "Do people in Japan celebrate Halloween?"  People ask me variations on this question occasionally.  And by "people," I mean friends and relatives back home.  I'm not expert; I just live here.  The answer is, "Yes."

My first year living here, the local Toys-R-Us put a photo display in their front window of kids in Halloween costumes.  They also sold plastic or foam pumpkins and costumes for kids and adults.  The following fall, the teachers and some students of the conversation school where I worked had a Halloween costume party at a restaurant.  Later, I learned from some newspaper articles of police worries about costumed trouble-makers in Tokyo, but I don't think these people caused much mayhem that year. 

The next place I work always put a plastic jack-o-lantern out filled with cookies and candy on Halloween, and I passed out candy in my kid and adult classes.  If the students in a particular lesson had a high enough English level, we'd engage in a little season-appropriate discussion, usually about Halloween traditions and what costumes they'd wear if they went trick-or-treating.  One college student on her way to a semester in Canada really hoped she'd get to attend a Halloween party.

Another conversation school I briefly worked after that holds an annual Halloween party for its kid students and the instructors are all required to attend and wear costumes as well as supervise fun events.  I don't have any objections to that kind of thing although I changed jobs months before having to take part.  I think this is pretty common for conversation schools that like to include some exposure to foreign culture along with language studies.  A friend and his wife run their own school here and I think they either allow or encourage the kids to wear costumes on October 31st. 

Last year, a few students at the school where I currently work begged us to introduce a Halloween theme to our lessons the last week of the month, but it was already too late for us to do anything.  I did give out candy in our English Club, though, and we discussed the best way to kill various monsters. 

This year, there's apparently an event called "Sexy Halloween" in Nagoya.  And I've heard Tokyo Disneyland, which is also celebrating its 30th anniversary, has Halloween decorations.  I'm going to go ahead and assume Universal Studios Japan is doing the same thing, too.

Supermarkets have Halloween candy available, too.  Some even have special displays.  Seiyu, which recently sold Reese's Peanut Butter Cups, also sells costumes and decorations.  And, of course, Freshness Burger and Baskin-Robbins decorate.  Well, Freshness Burger did as recently as four years ago-- fake cobwebs and colorful jack-o-lantern posters.  Baskin-Robbins sells Halloween ice cream flavors, which we've already talked about.

So it seems Halloween is making inroads.  And why not?  I don't think I'm telling you anything too controversial when I declare Japan the top cosplay country in the world.  Haunted house attractions like the one that used to be in the basement of Zaza City here in Hamamatsu have a perennial appeal, and most of the kids I've taught know who Jason is and all about his hockey mask.  I've never seen any trick-or-treating here, though.

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