Halloween came to Japan after World War II. After the war, Japanese people were fascinated with the U.S. Japan imported many aspects of American culture, such as music, fashion, cars, and food, and Halloween is one of them. (Although Halloween originated in Ireland.) However, it is only recently that Halloween has gained momentum in Japan. Specifically, it was only in the 2000's that Halloween became popular in Japan. So, why did Halloween suddenly take off in the 2000's? The kicker is the spread of camera phones and SNS. Although smartphones came a little later, by the 2000's, almost everyone had a cell phone. In addition, cell phones began to include cameras in their functions. Parallel to this trend, Facebook and Mixi, a Japanese platform, appeared in 2004. And then came the establishment of a style where everyone always carries a camera with them, takes photos of their daily life, and shares them on the internet. In fact, the time when this style was born and started to be established coincides with the time when Halloween slowly took root in Japan. The first Halloween parade in Japan was set up by the Kiddy Land Harajuku store in the 1970's, and the Kawasaki Halloween Parade began in 1997. Tokyo Disneyland started Disney Happy Halloween in 1997. However, at that time, not much attention was paid to the event and Disney did not put that much effort into it. In the 2000's, however, Halloween events began to gain momentum, with the promotion of guest participation in costumes beginning in 2002, and Tokyo DisneySea officially beginning to host Halloween events in 2009.
Kawasaki Halloween Parade (left) and Disney's guests in costumes (right)
Of course, SNS and photo-sharing culture are not the only reasons for the rapid spread of Halloween. The cultural attitude of Japan and the Japanese national character have encouraged it - They like festivals and costumes. There are actually 300,000 traditional festivals held throughout Japan. This is because in Japan, traditional culture is passed on, group solidarity is strengthened, and social education and the propagation of history are entrusted in part to the festivals of each region. But these traditional festivals are not suited to the current era. It is difficult to find time to prepare for festivals, and many of the festivals were born in an era when agriculture was the mainstay of life, so they are too far removed from the lives of modern people. In addition, many people nowadays work in the cities away from their hometowns, making it impossible for them to participate in the festivals of their hometowns', even if they wanted to. This is why global festivals such as Christmas and Valentine's Day have been localized for Japan and have taken root, as you can connect with people through them. But these events have one weakness. They are limited to those who have a partner or family. Now that the number of people living alone is dramatically increasing and the marriage rate is declining, there are many people who want to participate in these events but cannot. This is where Halloween comes in. By localizing Halloween in the Japanese style, where people simply need to dress up and participate, Halloween has captured the hearts of Japanese people who want to participate in festivals but are unable to do so. Halloween is originally a festival mainly for children. But Halloween in Japan is a little different. It has become like an event where adults dress up and have fun. If we focus on the children's festival part of Halloween, it would be like Christmas or Valentine's Day, where the number of participants is limited. In addition, the Japanese love to dress up in unusual outfits, from cosplay culture to Gothic and Lolita to Harajuku fashion. Moreover, the origins of dressing-up can be traced back to a very long time ago. One of the most famous ukiyoe paintings is "Toto meisho Takanawa nijuroku ya machi yugyo no zu" by Hiroshige Utagawa, an Edo period painter. It is a picture of the event called Twenty-six Nights Waiting, where people gather at the shore of Takanawa and Shinagawa to eat and drink while waiting for the moon to rise, and to our surprise, people are depicted in costume. Other than that, a painting depicting the Eejanaika Riot of the late Edo period showed people dressed up as foxes. Also, in the traditional event Ghost performed by geiko and maiko on Setsubun, it is said that the masquerade induces laughter and invites good fortune. So, Japan originally had a foundation for a masquerade culture by the ordinary people!
Toto meisho Takanawa nijuroku ya machi yugyo no zu
So, Japanese culture has always had a love of masquerade, but at the same time, there is a shy national character. A lot of Japanese people feel uncomfortable if they don't dress the same as others. On the other hand, anime and tokusatsu (special effects) programs such as Sailor Moon and Kamen Rider that involve transformation have been broadcast and have become very popular. They are so shy as a nation that they cannot be honest about their desire to transform, despite the fact that they love it. What if there was an exemption called Halloween? You can dress up as you like because it is an event. How could the Japanese not react to this? This is why this event became so popular in the 2000's with the spread of SNS. If you have a chance, visit Japan during the Halloween season. You will surely enjoy it.
Halloween night in Shibuya, Tokyo
There is a lot of food items, housewares, stationery, and gifts available at the store and our online store, Maido! Kairashi Shop, where you can place your order for shipping or store pickup! Happy shopping. :)