Halloween in Japan

I know, this post is ridiculously late. But I still wanted to post about it because I thought some of you may find it interesting.

Japanese don’t celebrate American holidays the way Americans do, and Halloween is no exception. In Japan, Halloween is largely geared toward adults. They dress up in cosplay, head to Tokyo, and party the weekend away. Older, traditional Japanese are not particularly fond of this because the party-goers also tend to leave a massive mess in the wake of their festivities. (To understand their annoyance, you need to understand that the rest of the year, Japanese are particularly clean and neat. It’s almost like living on “OCD Island”.)

Japanese citizens have been slowly trying to make Halloween more child-friendly by encouraging people to hand out treats to the children who Trick or Treat. And it is working. Japanese who live in neighborhoods that don’t do the Halloween festivities, flock to neighborhoods that  are heavily populated with Americans in order to take advantage of the fun.

We live in a tiny Japanese apartment with a lovely view. Shortly after moving here, I had wanted to hand out candy, but didn’t know how to get the date of when they were going to celebrate the holiday.  Last year, I heard some of the Japanese kids going door to door getting candy, so I grabbed some candy I had bought at the store and handed it out to them. One look at their faces, and I could tell that I had done something wrong.

This year, I wanted to do it right! So, I went to our Japanese neighbor for help. Between her, Google translate app, and another good English-speaking Japanese neighbor, we were able to explain that we wanted to participate in handing out candy. A few weeks later, a  Japanese resident from our building handed us a small package and explained everything in it.

The bag contained:*A paper (all printed in kanji, of course) with the Halloween date, time, and how many kids to buy treats for.*Stickers from the Disney movie, Cars. A small magnet with a picture of a pumpkin and “Happy Halloween” on it. 500 yen (the equivalent of $5.00)

People who live in neighborhoods, do something similar to what I’m about to describe. But, I will describe to you how we do Halloween at our apartment building.

First, I had to notify someone that I wanted to hand out treats for Halloween. (This was my first mistake the year before. I didn’t know I needed to notify anyone.)  And any children who wanted to participate to get candy had to be signed up.

Then, they gave me the package of items that I mentioned above. The 500 yen was to offset the expense of any treats I chose to buy for the children. (It’s also a way to encourage more people to participate and hand out treats.)  After that, I bought what candy I wanted to hand out AND treat bags. (This was my second mistake. They don’t hand out candies individually as most Americans do.) After I bought the treats and put them into bags and taped or tied them closed, I was ready for the kids.

The day of Halloween, the Japanese may decorate their door and windows. We also did this. This also includes putting the magnet that we got in the package up on the outside of our door. Decorations are removed no later than the next day. I imagine that because the Japanese are so clean and neat, they do not leave decorations up for hardly any length of time.

Then the children came! They came to the door, and rang our doorbell. They don’t shout anything similar to “Trick or Treat” like Americans. Japanese are fairly quiet and reserved, so it would be unusual for them to stand at the door and shout.

We then gave them a bag of goodies by placing it into their bag. After they received their candy, they showed us a paper that had yarn through it that hung around their neck. On the paper were squares. In each square, there was an apartment number that belonged to each person that was handing out candy. I searched for our apartment number, and put a Disney “Cars” sticker on the square with our number in it. Each resident who participated, received stickers with a different character. So, my neighbor who also handed out candy, may have gotten Mickey Mouse stickers. The neighbors a few doors down, may have gotten Winnie-The-Pooh stickers. Putting stickers on the squares helped the kids know which apartments they had already visited.

We don’t get swarms of kids. I think this year, there were only about twenty children expected to come.  And four of them didn’t show up. They also kept the time to get candy short. Just two hours.

In case you were wondering, we handed out American candy that is not sold off base. We gave out Tootsie Pops, Peppermint Patties, Twizzlers, Starbursts, Mounds and Reece’s Peanut Butter Cups. I can’t help wondering how much of it they liked, and how much of it they thought was disgusting.

One thing that I thought was nice about Halloween in Japan was that because they do it differently than Americans, you don’t find the negative aspect of Halloween here. There is no vandalism, there are no pranks, no late-night ringing doorbells, etc. They only go to get candy at places that are participating and leave everyone else alone.       I hope that it stays that way.

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