(Yo! Media)
  • Stories
  • Food
  • Culture

A Very Brief History of Halloween in Japan

Halloween in Japan is rather new. Like many western influences that jumped the Pacific, the Japanese are slowly making it their own.

Halloween is a historically Celtic holiday that was recently imported to Japan just over 20 years ago.

It started in 1997 with a “Disney Happy Halloween” event in Tokyo Disneyland, and was soon followed with similar events at Universal Studios Japan (Hollywood Halloween) located in Osaka and Sanrio Puroland, in west Tokyo.

Over the years, the holiday grew throughout the country, especially in large cities like Tokyo and Osaka. With that, the business of halloween grew. Pumpkin themed everything, candies, and plushies made their way into stores and the already existing community of cosplayers and otaku quickly used this as an opportunity to once again put their talents to use.

Young adults in Tokyo rushed the streets in Shibuya, turning it into a giant street packed with costumes, socializing, and lots of drinking. Halloween has become so successful that it has been drawing crowds of over 70,000 people into the streets, causing hooliganism with a truck being overturned last year. As a result, public drinking is banned in the next Halloween season.

In Kyoto, there is the annual Hyakki Yagyo, or "Night Parade of 100 Demons" that takes place on the 3rd Saturday in October. The street in which the parade is celebrated on, Ichijo Yokai Street, is believed to be the boundary line between the human and the spirit world. Although it is not an official Halloween event, it coincidentally falls around the same time of the year.

Source

If you want to experience a spooky season in Japan, you will want to visit in August, when the country observes obon, a time when the spirits of the deceased come home to earth and visit the living.

Rather than ghosts (obake) that take a friendly approach in the Western world, there is an entire world of spirits that exist in Japan. The one that we are most familiar with are yuurei, manifestations of vengeful souls who are tied to their negative emotions. They exist between the supernatural and physical world and are characterized with white clothing and black hair draping over their face a la The Ring.

When I was younger (pre 1997) and visiting my cousins on my father’s side of the family living in Kyoto, I specifically remember going to the theaters and watching the film Gakkou No Kaidan (School Ghost Stories) and taking a light rail up the mountain to a Japanese style haunted house known as obake yashiki (haunted house) that was located at a small park, jungle gym and all. You can bet that I am never going to revisit the movie after that experience.

Although Halloween is a rather new holiday in Japan, the country and its people have adopted elements of it and are making it into something of its own, similar to almost anything Japan adopts. (e.g. the automobile, spaghetti, etc.) In the meantime, I'm going to have fun getting inspiration from these mundane costumes in Japan.

---------------

References
1"Japanese Ghost Season" tofugu.com. 2013-08-29. Retrieved 2020-10-24.
2"How Halloween Became a Thing in Japan" kotaku.com. 2019-10-21 Retrieved 2020-10-24.
3"Since when was Halloween so popular in Japan?" japantoday.com. 2013-10-29. Retrieved 2020-10-24.
4"The Japanese Take Halloween To A New Level By Celebrating It With “Every-Day Situation” Costumes (28 Pics)" boredpanda.com. Retrieved 2020-10-24.
Download it!
Article featured in this issue:
All Hallows' Eve
October 23, 2020

Coincidentally (but appropriately) our 13th issue. With stories of the paranormal, costume inspiration, superstition, and festivity, our issue bring no tricks, only treats as you celebrate your Halloween. Boo!

Sports Astrology

What sport are you?

Discover Now

There's More This Issue

Haunted Japantowns

The historic Japantowns have served our community for over 100 years, but there are many untold stories that reveal a spooky side of these neighborhoods.

Read More >>

3 Asian-Inspired Fall Cocktails

What better way to get into the autumnal spirit than with spirits! I mean, alcohol! Here are three Asian-inspired fall cocktail recipes for you to try for your next Zoom happy hour.

Read More >>

Japanese Horror Movies to Binge on Halloween

We've compiled a list of some favorite Japanese horror movies that will make you want to yell "Kowai!"

Read More >>

The Visitor

Hawaii is a spiritual place and no stranger to its share of ghost stories. I had my own encounter in 2015 at the Japanese Cultural Center of Hawaii.

Read More >>

A Very Brief History of Halloween in Japan

Halloween in Japan is rather new. Like many western influences that jumped the Pacific, the Japanese are slowly making it their own.

Read More >>

We Rate Cute Dogs in their Halloween Costumes

We love dogs. We love costumes. We love Halloween. Put them all together? Dog Costume Halloween Party! We rate the goodest boys in their goodest costumes.

Read More >>

Safe Activities for a Healthy & Happy Halloween

It's the most pumpkin time of the year! We've compiled a list of fun activities to do to stay safe, but still have a happy Halloween.

Read More >>

My Japanese Superstitions

Americans have likely heard the "don't step on a crack or you'll break your mother's back" superstition. But other countries have their own silly phrases, including Japan.

Read More >>

Some Tricks, But More Treats

Why have pumpkin when you can have persimmon?

Read More >>

Asian Costume Ideas

While there are no Halloween parties to look forward to this year, we have some easy and cheap Asian/Asian American costume ideas for your Zoom party at work or with friends.

Read More >>

Boo's At The Door?

Ding dong! Who's at the door? Find out and see some friends of Yo! dressed in their Halloween best as kiddos.

Read More >>

our latest issues

The Great OutdoorsThe Great Outdoors
Published On: 
June 15, 2021
On WellnessOn Wellness
Published On: 
April 30, 2021
All in the GameAll in the Game
Published On: 
April 3, 2021
One Year IndoorsOne Year Indoors
Published On: 
February 27, 2021