This post was updated from the 2015 original in September 2016.
I’ve lived in Japan a long time. It surprised me when I first moved here that no one knew much about my favorite holiday, Halloween. That is not true anymore. In 2016, Halloween in Tokyo is a big celebration and even bigger business.
Back in my early days here, few people I spoke with had heard about this holiday. Maybe they had seen something about witches and pumpkins, but it was not celebrated in Japan in any significant way. Now, Halloween is everywhere, and the first signs of it start in early September. Credit must be given to the Disney Corporation and their Japanese resorts, Tokyo Disneyland and Tokyo DisneySea, for its current popularity (more about that later).
Trick Or Treat
Shibuya mascot Hachiko get's in on the Halloween fun -- Photo by Lauren Shannon
From as recently as 10 years ago the idea of carving pumpkins and dressing up in the fall was totally foreign. Now, as with so many things, the Japanese have embraced this new tradition and taken it to the next level.
Embracing Halloween is quite natural actually, in a country that celebrates delicious fall food, tasty sweets, cosplay (dressing up in costumes) and adorable mascot characters. Modern Halloween makes perfect sense. Even so, the transition to Halloween was rather slow in coming. Don’t get me wrong, Japan has a long tradition of ghosts and monster stories. The whole season of Obon in August centers around welcoming home the spirits of the ancestors, but the idea of Halloween and All Hallows Eve had no place here. Until now.
Mickey Mouse - The Grandfather of Halloween
Mickey and Minnie are ready to celebrate -- Photo from Flickr cc by Ryutaro Koma
As I mentioned, Disney was the beginning of it all. From about ten years ago, Disney began a huge campaign of promoting the season in their parks and through their products and licensing. One interesting thing about Halloween in Japan is that in almost any shop that sells Halloween candies and treats, Mickey Mouse in his Fantasia wizard outfit, or some other costume, will be a central figure–much more so than in his home country of the USA. Mickey Mouse is the grandfather of Halloween in Japan, and if you're here during October, be sure to include Tokyo Disneyland as part of your trip.
You can see their famous Halloween Parade while you are there. Dates for the Disney Season for 2016 -- kick off on 9/9 and the special events and decorations run until (of course) October 31st.
Special news for Disney cosplay inclined adults--
During The First And Last Weeks Of The Halloween season (September 9 To 15 and October 25 To 31, A Total Of 14 Days) At Tokyo Disneyland, Guests Ages 12 And Older Dressed In Full Disney Character Costumes Will Be Admitted. Guests Ages 11 Or Younger May Do So Any Day as usual.
NOTES FROM THE PARK:For The Safety Of Everyone Concerned, Guests In Costume May Not Be Allowed To Ride Some Attractions.· Guests In Costumes Other Than Disney Character Costumes Will Not Be Admitted.· Entering The Park In Full Disney Character Costume Is Allowed Only During The Designated Days Mentioned Above (Children Ages 11 And Younger Excepted).
New on the scene this year Skytree Halloween
This year over at the iconic tower Tokyo Skytree from 9/15 until 10/31 you can see some great Halloween decorations and do some seasonal shopping. If you buy any two of the of the kawaii 2016 souvenirs you get a free sticker for the kids or the young-at-heart big people! Spend the day in the area checking out all the great things to do then in the late afternoon go to Skytree shopping area to get your limited edition stuff and special snacks Then end your day up in the tower taking in the sparkling skyline view. More details here (JP only).
Let's Get This Party Started
Creative costumes can be seen around the city at events big and small -- Photo from Flickr cc by Hideya HAMANO
Halloween 2016 is already gearing up in Tokyo. All month there will be events, special souvenirs, Halloween inspired food-- including the infamous black burgers!
There are parties all over the city. On Saturday, October 29th at the Hikarie building in Shibuya, the Merchants Association have created a hub for Halloween revels, the Shibuya Otona Halloween Party. Thousands of Japanese fans of the spooky holiday will come dressed to compete in a costume contest that is great fun to watch. You can see the "red carpet" arriving, ghouls, goblins and favorite characters from stories. Prizes this year range up to ¥500,000 in gift certificates from the shops in this big downtown retail center.
Check out these videos to get a glimpse of Halloween last year in Tokyo. And this year promises to be even better and probably crazier!
Roppongi is also a famous neighborhood for their spooky seasonal goings-on; you can check out a parade and many other events and parties. One of the longest running Halloween events in Japan, is the Glitterball hosted by Metropolis Magazine. (details for this year's party are not yet available) Finding Halloween in Roppongi and Azabu-Juban neighborhoods is easy, almost every bar and restaurant will have some special event going on.
For families, there will be parades in Omotesando (on Sunday 10/30), Kawasaki and Yokohama. Some residential areas and shops are also starting to promote trick or treating and special events for the little ones.
Halloween In Tokyo
Pirates in Roppongi -- Photo from Flickr cc by Teralaser
Traveling in Tokyo during the weeknd of 10/28-10/31? You will have a tremendous amount of fun just parking yourself on a street corner in one of the entertainment districts during the final festive weekend for some people watching. I recommend Hachiko Shibuya Crossing,Harajuku Takeshita Dori, and all along Roppongi Dori area. You will be sure to see people dressed in outrageous costumes on their way to celebrate at small parties with friends or at huge events in dance clubs and bars.
My favorite holiday has truly arrived and the Japanese have added their own touch to this centuries old fall tradition.