Halloween in Japan: My 2019 Review

I never cared much for Halloween before becoming a father. For me, Halloween has always been the holiday devoid of a proper day off. But with children, I’m obligated to join in the festivities. And honestly, I’m enjoying it.

Halloween is a big deal in Japan.

My daughter’s day care was decked out in Halloween decor for most of October. The final week leading up to October 31st was most intense. From Monday to Thursday, the kids wore costumes and engaged in a variety of Halloween themed activities.

The city of Kurihama (an hour south of Tokyo) hosted a flee market where we bought some hand made goodies and ate street food. These smaller Halloween celebrations are common throughout the country. They’re quiet, subdued and intimate. A far cry from the capitol city.

Halloween in Tokyo is insane. Folks head to Shibuya for a massive block party.

This year, the government introduced a ban on the public consumption of alcoholic beverages for all Halloween celebrations. If you didn’t know, drinking in public is legal in Japan. You’re totally free to crack open a beer and drink on the streets. But a combination of last year’s Halloween shenanigans and the recent uptick in tourism created a need to change the status quo, if only for one night.

When comparing this year’s Halloween to past Shibuya gatherings, the alcohol ban didn’t curb the fun factor.

Honestly, I appreciated the ban and increased police presence in the area. The police were by no means aggressive. They were less interested in the drinking and more engaged with crowd control. That’s important.

It’s official, Halloween 2019 was the year of Joker in Japan. Everywhere I went, I saw a variety of masks and face paint paying homage to the clown prince of crime. The movie that was released earlier this year recently became the highest grossing R-rated film of all time; beating The Passion of the Christ, Deadpool, and The Matrix Reloaded. You can read my review to see my raw thoughts on the Joker film.

Another interesting part of Halloween in Japan were the many josou I encountered. I talked about josou before in my Kanamara Matsuri post.

I’ve said it before and I’ll continue to say, Japan has an exceptionally conservative society. Going against the grain is not something you do here. Everyone plays there assigned social roles to keep the machine going. That’s what makes Halloween so interesting here. For one night, two if you include New Years Eve, people go bananas.

Folks transform into to be the person they wish to be, and disappear into the crowds.
I would love to hear about a Halloween celebration bigger than the one here in Shibuya. Post your comments, and enjoy a few extra shots from the evening.

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