A couple of decades ago, Halloween was pretty much ignored in Japan and all it was seen as was an excuse for gaijin to get drunk and rowdy in the Roppongi area. Thanks to Tokyo Disneyland, however, that all changed just a few years ago and ever since the holiday has been gaining more and more popularity with each passing year. According to one report, Japan spent just barely more money on Halloween in 2016 than Valentine’s Day! This makes the event the second biggest financial holiday being edged out by Christmas.
When we think of Halloween in the west, we think of scary things and trick or treating but that’s not the case in Japan. First of all, Japan is more of an adult holiday than a children’s holiday. Secondly, Halloween is not Japan’s spooky season; that would be Obon in mid-August when it is customary to visit the graves of deceased family members to clean their grave and make offerings. Lastly, trick or treating in Japan is not something that is done for societal reasons.
While kids in Japan are able to have parties at school or at home, the idea of children going door to door to bother their neighbors and ask for candy is unthinkable. While there might be a few isolated cases of trick or treating happening in the more remote areas of Japan, it’s most likely very strictly regulated so that no one is inconvenienced.
As mentioned, Halloween is more for young adults in Japan who will go all out on their costumes (this is the country that gave us cosplay after all) and party on the streets of Shibuya until the sun comes up. Unfortunately, this causes all sorts of problems for residents of the neighborhood.
The party that happens on or around October 31 is an unofficial gathering. No one tells these people to get together in Shibuya, it just kind of happens organically. This leads to plenty of noise, streets being closed off to car traffic, and trash being left everywhere which is unsightly at best and unsanitary at worst. In recent years the city has been doing its best to combat this problem by putting out more trash receptacles and holiday revelers returning to the streets the next day to help with the cleanup but it’s still a problem that the neighborhood has yet to completely figure out. This year was no exception as partygoers ended up flipping over a truck around 1 am on the weekend before Halloween and five people were arrested for various offenses! It is worth noting, however, that a much more peaceful gathering took place in the Ikebukuro neighborhood.
If partying on the streets or in a nightclub isn’t your thing (no judgment, it wouldn’t be my thing either), there are still plenty of high profile events that are fun for people of all ages in Japan. Theme parks such as Tokyo Disneyland and Universal Studios, for example, go all out for the unofficial holiday and dial up the festivities to draw in more people around this time of year.
Regardless of anything that happens on this day in Japan, it doesn’t seem likely that the festivities are going to go away anytime soon.