Wednesday, November 02, 2005
For Taupe - answering a comment question
Do they celebrate Halloween in Japan?
It depends where you live.
Basically the answer is no.
Most Japanese people I meet have no idea what Halloween means and many don’t know the actual date. For some Halloween is a time, not a date, lasting the month of October and disappearing suddenly on November first. Many stores tend to overlap Halloween and Christmas decoration giving me holiday overload heart attacks. It is creepy seeing a witch on one side of the store and a giant Santa on the other.
I tell my students that Halloween is equivalent to the Japanese Obon belief, just that in Japan we calmly send the spirits back to the land of the dead by lighting incense and sprinkling salt. In the western world we try to scare the shit out of them.
If you live in Tokyo, Osaka, or one of the major cities I am sure you will find tons of Halloween celebrations and drunken bar parties very similar to how we do it, but you will not find trick-or-treating anywhere. Some schools do little Halloween decorating things but candy is almost never involve; that whole concept has not yet caught on here.
In my little 100,000 people town Halloween in pretty blaa. When I first arrived there was a group of bored JETs (Japanese English Teachers) who would hold a party every year and ride the trains in our area most of the night reminding the locals why they don’t like us foreigners very much. They would create a few laughs and a few sighs. Mostly they just had a good time.
Those people have mostly moved on and things are basically confined to one or two small bars, but not in my town. You have to head to Shizuoka city for the parties, about a 30 minute train ride away.
When I first came to Japan, about 5 and a half years ago now, there was maybe one restaurant with Halloween decorations and I cannot recall a single store that did anything. Now, it is EVERYWHERE! Many restaurants decorate, most stores do, and all the supermarkets put up displays. Seiyu has a pumpkin weighing contest and all of the toy sections have costumes for sale. Kids are stating to take to it but not in droves yet.
This year for the very first time there was a Halloween parade in my little town. It was put on by the ‘Friendship Society’, a group of people that I try to avoid, who try to organize foreigner relation things. I was warned that they could be a bit of an annoying trap if you are the type of person that cannot say no very well. Anyway, this year they had a fairly good turn out of people, young and old, foreign and Japanese, who dressed up in costumes ranging from simple to good, and they walked around the sidewalks signing Halloween songs I have never heard before. They were not carrying candy bags and no one was offering gifts.
They seemed to be enjoying themselves but the parade took all of about two minutes to pass you, and that was only because the light turned red at the cross walk. It will probably be bigger next year.
I got my little dose of Halloween and both Li and Ji thought they were all crazy.