Halloween in Japan
Halloween in Japan
Halloween, celebrated on October 31st, is a traditional and cultural event with presumably Celtic origins. It occurs in Anglo-Saxon countries, especially the United States, Canada, Ireland and the United Kingdom. The name comes from “All Hallows Even”, which means “All Hallows Night”, also called “All Hallows’ Day”.
Anyone who arrives in Japan around Halloween may be surprised by the amount of decorations available. In the houses we see pumpkins and ghosts hanging, in the stores there is a whole panoply of decorations on display and to be sold, as well as all kinds of food and sweets with decorations related to Halloween.
This first impression leads us to the idea that Halloween could be important for the Japanese, however, like Christmas in Japan, it is more of a marketing and sales strategy than anything else.
For example, in Japan, there is no tradition for children to mask themselves and go knock on the neighbor’s door, “trick or treat” or, as in Portugal, “the bread for God”. International schools will be able to celebrate with small parties where children dress up, but in most of Japan, the date simply serves as a means of consuming themed products and many people also take the opportunity to make decorations.
Japan, originating from the Cosplay culture (the art of masking and representing a certain character) took advantage of Halloween as a Cosplay booster. For example, before the pandemic, the so-called Zombie Party Halloween, or Halloween Parades, were held, where masked young people met and had fun on the streets, especially in Tokyo (Roppongi, Shibuya and Harajuku) .
So, although we find some occasional parties associated with Halloween, decorations and sweets, chocolates, cakes, cookies associated with the Halloween theme, this date is another strategy to boost trade.
In fact, the festival closest to the true theme of Halloween (All Saints’ Day) is the Festival of Obon Odori, an event, similar to the Day of the Dead, in which the Japanese take offerings to tombs and shrines and also perform Tooro Nagashi, a ritual where paper lanterns are placed in rivers in honour of the dead.