With Halloween coming up, I have had several friends ask me whether the holiday is celebrated in Japan. The answer is yes, but we celebrate the day with our own twist.
In fact, Halloween is now the most celebrated foreign holiday for Japanese people in market size, larger than Christmas and Valentine’s. Though Halloween is a relatively new holiday compared to Christmas and Valentine’s which have taken roots in Japan’s culture since around the 1950s.
When I grew up in Tokyo, Halloween was almost obscure. The celebration was limited to foreign residents and international schools. (I recall when I went to look at the Halloween lights at a house of an American neighbor with my friends. We were all wowed.)
Halloween burst into the scene in 1997 when Tokyo Disneyland held its first Halloween show (following a successful run in France and the U.S.), followed quickly by similar events at other theme parks. Since then, Halloween celebration has exploded in popularity across the country, but there is a unique way the Japanese celebrate the holiday.
While kids enjoy school parties and trick-or-treat events at supermarkets, Halloween in Japan is largely a celebration for teenagers and grown-ups. It is all about partying and dressing up!
Dressing up as your favorite character from anime, comics, and games has been popular among “cosplayers” in Japan before Halloween became celebrated. Halloween offered a great opportunity not only for cosplayers but for many people who wanted to experience cosplay for the day and have fun partying and drinking in whatever costume they like to wear.
A huge crowd gathers at Shibuya, Tokyo where the biggest Halloween street party in Japan takes place in the Halloween evening. You will see many creepy, cute, crazy or sexy cosplayers. A lot of people put their creative energy on their outfits, make-up, and wigs, and the result is mesmerizing.
The reason so many people are attracted to cosplay in Halloween could be related to the Japanese people’s tendency of shyness. Halloween can be a window of opportunity for them to push themselves out of their comfort zone and to be able to open up without hesitation.
Every year Halloween is gaining popularity in Japan. It seems it is not going to stop evolving anytime soon. If you have a chance to visit Japan in this time of the season, get your costume ready, and be prepared to be mesmerized!