Halloween in Japan: Costumes, traditions, and where to go

Halloween continues to grow in popularity in Japan. It burst onto the scene in 2000 when Tokyo Disneyland hosted its first Halloween event. It was a triumph and other theme parks followed suit. Now Halloween is one of the biggest events on the calendar, held, of course, October 31.

However, Halloween in Japan isn’t just an imitation of the American version. First of all, there’s no ‘trick or treating’. Secondly, as it’s a new phenomenon, people don’t care about most of the Halloween traditions which are important elsewhere.

Instead, people focus their creative energy on their Halloween costumes. Japanese people love to dress up and Halloween offers a window of opportunity for cosplay (costume play). Halloween events such as zombie runs, flash mobs, and street parties are typical.

Halloween costumes in Japan

In nightclubs, theme parks, bars, and street parties throughout Japan, people dress up in all kinds of crazy Halloween outfits. Popular costumes vary between cute and terrifying.

Classic costumes such as witches, wizards, devils, and black cats are typical though people also dress up as their favorite characters from computer games, TV shows, and films such as Pikachu, Darth Vader, and Mario.

At Ikebukuro, a major center for Japan’s anime culture, everyone dresses up as manga or anime characters, rather than ghosts and monsters. Don Quijote (Donki) and Daiso are two popular discount chain stores where people go shopping for their costumes.

don quijote at halloween
Don Quijote at Halloween – Photo by Evan Blaser @Flickr

Halloween street parties

If you’re wondering where to celebrate Halloween in Japan, the street parties are a great place to start. They take place throughout Japan in popular spots such as squares and parks.

There’s a huge annual Halloween parade at Roppongi Hills which always turns into a huge street party. Another one of the best parties is in Shibuya (Tokyo) where the Scramble Crossing and Center Gai are closed off from traffic and the partying goes on until the early hours!

Street parties are a great way of seeing a wide variety of costumes and having fun at Halloween on a budget. They are free and you can bring your own drinks. The only money you need to spend is on your costume!

Halloween treats

Though people don’t ‘trick or treat’ you can still find plenty of sweet things to eat at Halloween. Carving orange pumpkins into Jack-o-lanterns is a tradition that the Japanese have embraced.

There’s also a range of limited-edition products which are brought onto the market at Halloween. Restaurants and bakeries also serve special orange, black, green, and purple desserts which are a huge hit.

Japanese Halloween trains

At Halloween, Japanese trains transform. They are normally quiet peaceful places, but at Halloween, they become one of the craziest and trendiest places to celebrate.

Halloween at a train station in Osaka, Japan – Photo by Osaka Subway

The phenomenon started in the 1990s when groups of American expats started throwing Halloween parties on the trains (and leaving a huge cleanup operation behind!). Today, the Halloween trains are much better organized and have websites where you can sign up for the fun.

It’s a rare sight to see trains full of zombies, vampires, and other scary-looking characters riding the trains and partying. It’s even stranger to see the regular commuters standing between them!

Halloween events at theme parks

Theme parks in Japan are some of the most exciting places to be at Halloween. Here are some of the biggest amusement parks which run annual Halloween events.

Tokyo Disneyland: The park’s many characters turn into ghosts which haunt the park in the evening. There is a huge parade with over 100 floats as well as dance parties with ghosts and goblins.

Tokyo Disneyland at Halloween
Tokyo Disneyland at Halloween – Photo by Richard, enjoy my life! @Flickr

Universal Studios Japan: Every year there are ‘Halloween Horror Nights’ which feature haunted houses and ghostly versions of all the characters. There’s also a special Halloween-themed movie ride.

Sanrio Puroland: The theme park is best known for its Hello Kitty-themed zone. Like Disneyland and Universal Studios, the characters transform at night. There are also themed parties throughout the month of Halloween.

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