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Halloween in Japan: What’s Different?

The appeal of Halloween in Japan lies in two things: commercialism and costumes.

By 3 min read 7

Over the last decade, Japan’s enthusiasm for Halloween has seen a noticeable surge, accompanied by growing commercial promotion. Whereas once the vibrant decorations, imaginative visuals, and elaborate costumes associated with the holiday were primarily confined to attractions like Tokyo Disneyland and Tokyo DisneySea, these festive elements have become increasingly mainstream.

However, their adoption and interpretation in Japan might differ from what one would expect in Western countries. For instance, while trick-or-treating isn’t widespread, many Japanese people embrace the holiday as an opportunity for cosplay, parties, and lively gatherings, especially in Tokyo.

Trick-or-Treating Isn’t Really a Thing

The Halloween street party in Shibuya, Tokyo.

Trick-or-treating, a popular Western Halloween tradition, is not commonly practiced in Japan. There are several reasons for this cultural difference. Firstly, knocking on a stranger’s door and asking for candy can be perceived as intrusive, given the Japanese value of avoiding inconveniences to others, often referred to as meiwaku meiwaku o kakeru (being a bother or nuisance). This cultural emphasis on respecting personal boundaries and privacy might play a role in the absence of trick-or-treating.

While children in Japan partake in Halloween festivities, it’s often in a more structured setting. Kids might dress up for parades, school events, or theme parks. However, in Japan, Halloween has evolved into an adult occasion. 

Shibuya Halloween

In Japan, Halloween resonates primarily because of its association with commercial opportunities and the allure of costumes. The country has a vibrant cosplay (costume play) culture. Enthusiasts from the otaku (geek) community and beyond relish the chance to don elaborate outfits, turning the streets into a visual spectacle. This enthusiasm predominantly emanates from adults, making Halloween more adult-centric in Japan.

Given this backdrop, late October sees a surge in costume-centric parties at venues that serve alcohol, catering to this adult audience. One notable hotspot for these celebrations was the scramble crossing in Shibuya, which once drew crowds of over 70,000 people, many in high spirits and intoxicated. This has led to Halloween weekend in Shibuya being known as the biggest unofficial Halloween party in the world.

However, in recent years, the festivities have been marred by drunkenness, sexual assaults, fights, disorderly conduct, and other disruptive behaviors. This escalation in unruly activities led to a crackdown on the event. After a particularly chaotic year where a truck was overturned amidst the chaos, authorities have enforced stricter regulations, including a ban on public drinking in Shibuya during Halloween. The celebrations, now under these tighter restrictions, are anticipated to evolve, with many observing to see how the public adapts.

Do People Tell Ghost Stories?

Scary stories to tell in the dark.

While Japan has a rich history filled with eerie folklore, it is during the summer months that the nation delves deep into its spiritual realm. This culminates in the Buddhist festival of Obon in August. As the festival approaches, cinemas and television channels brim with horror films and shows, while horror-centric bars and restaurants witness increased reservations.

On the topic of supernatural tales, GaijinPot invites its readers to share their accounts of ghostly encounters in Japan for this year’s Halloween special. Interested in spooky stories? Check out some of the articles below.

This post was updated on 2023/10/05

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  • ixToxicManju says:

    The school trick or treating thing sounds really cute and very safe for kids. I don’t live in Japan but Halloween parties sound fun and simple there.

  • Y.A says:

    we are going to go to Shibuya and look at the parade 🙂

  • Katie Rakoczy says:

    Went to the Vamps Halloween concert in Kobe! It’s something i look forward to every year. All concert attendees are in costume AND so are the bands! Hyde took his love of Halloween and turned it into a mind-blowing 4 day concert.

  • David Kunin says:

    I went to Shibuya to experience the 31. It was amazing, more like a huge river of slowly flowing costumed people than a parade.

  • David Kunin says:

    My wife and I were (a bit older) attendees in Shibuya on the 31. It was an amazing experience of thousands of costumed twenty somethings having fun. It was unlike any memories I have of Halloween.

  • Kenneth Valentine Marshall says:

    Halloween in Japan right now is more like a slightly organized parade. Like Carnival or Mardi Gras. (Or Gasparilla for my Tampa Bay partygoers) It’s a lot of fun but there aren’t enough areas to get a rest from walking around the city.

  • DaveTheLogician says:

    Nice article, Kyle. My experiences in Japan (in my fifteen years there) went from NOTHING to cosplay among young adults but nothing compared to what I see in the news, now, since the advent of “zombies.” Neat. Thanks.



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