Find out how Japan is celebrating the spooky season of Halloween this October and where to go to join in the fun.
Halloween is here again and if you’re visiting Japan this October you might be wondering how the spooky season is celebrated across the country. Japan’s Halloween celebrations are as fun and colourful as you might expect from a country that loves cosplay, anime, manga, theme parks, and computer games. You’ll find lots of Halloween parties to choose from, including special club nights for grown-ups, street parties, family friendly events, and fun-filled and extra spooky celebrations at the country’s biggest theme parks (which played a major role in making Halloween so popular in Japan). Here at JR Pass, we love Halloween and we love Japan. Ready to find out everything you need to know about both. Let’s take a peek together. Don’t get scared now!
What’s New For Halloween in Japan?
1. Yumenoshima Tropical Greenhouse Dome’s annual pumpkin exhibition
Running until 5 November, Yumenoshima Tropical Greenhouse Dome’s annual pumpkin exhibition in Ibaraki prefecture features more than 100 pumpkins, some weighing up to 100 kg each!
2. Metropolis x Black List Tokyo Halloween Party 2023
A grown-up Halloween party held across two luxurious locations, Hotel Indigo Tokyo Shibuya and Ce La Vi Tokyo at the 18th-floor Restaurant and Sky Bar.
3. Ikebukuro Halloween Cosplay Fest
The Ikebukuro cosplay festival includes parades, runway events, and photoshoots. It is a two-day event and is held in Toshima Ward, Tokyo. In 2018, the event saw over 20,000 cosplayers and 105,000 visitors.
4. Kagurazaka Bake Neko Festival
Part-festival, part-parade, Bake Neko means ‘Changed Cat’, which makes this family friendly Halloween festival, a parade for those who A) love cats and B) love the idea of changing into a cat for Halloween! It’s a fun mix of Japanese folklore and Halloween - could you get more fun?!
5. Tokyo Disneyland Halloween
Disney loves Halloween and its Tokyo resort brings the fun to the spooky season! Tokyo Disneyland starts its Halloween celebration in September and it goes on until October 31. However, if visitors wish to partake in the festivities, there are rules to follow. First, cosplayers must dress up like Disney characters, for which a list of appropriate characters is provided. Second, no weapons or heavy makeup is allowed, or any simulated injury that could be mistaken as real. Third, no overly-revealing costumes are allowed, and, lastly, patrons cannot change clothes or touch up makeup in the park’s bathrooms. Of course, despite the family friendly rules, Halloween at Tokyo Disneyland is super fun!
6. Universal Studios Japan, Halloween
Osaka’s Universal Studios goes just as big on Halloween as their rivals at Tokyo Disneyland. While the latter is perfect for younger children and families, Universal Studios Japan Halloween events might appeal more to older kids and teenagers. If you’re in Osaka this October and you love Halloween, don’t miss it!
7. Halloween Horror Night at Tokyo Red Tower
A special Halloween themed virtual reality experience in a unique setting!
8. Sanrio Puroland Halloween
Get ready for a Hello Kitty Halloween! Dedicated to Hello Kitty and her friends (Gudetama, Pompompurin, and My Melody), the Sanrio Puroland Halloween features sweet, family friendly Halloween events across this super cute theme park.
9. Kawaii Monster Shop Returns to Harajuku
Until 5 November, the Kawaii Monster Shop is back in Harajuku - at least as a temporary pop-up shop for Halloween 2023. Located inside Asobifactory in Harajuku, Kawaii Monster Shop and cafe features more colourful and cute monster related goodies that you can possibly imagine!
10. The Hello Halloween Pumpkin Parade
The Hello Halloween Pumpkin Parade is hosted in Omotesando and spans almost a mile along the city’s streets. It is an annual event in late October for children under 12 to dress up for. Local shops also participate in the parade and give away sweets to the children. Many cafes and restaurants will have Halloween-themed menus for the whole month of October.
How does Japan Celebrate Halloween?
Do they celebrate Halloween in Japan? Yes! It has been something of a new addition to Japan’s contemporary culture and annual celebrations however. In the 1990s, Tokyo Disneyland introduced Halloween to Japan, and it has become increasingly popular every year since becoming a much loved annual event. A few years later, Universal Studios Japan joined in the festivities. The two major theme parks were instrumental in bringing Halloween to Japan and the celebration has spread its way across the country. While the general Halloween concept is the same, there are some differences between the Japanese and American versions. First, the Japanese don’t focus on trick-or-treating like Americans do. This is because of the difference in culture — Japan frowns upon anything that would bother other people. Instead, Halloween is a time for adults to dress up, have fun, and party. Additionally, Japan does not view Halloween as a time when spirits are able to walk the Earth. They have their own holiday focused on spiritual reconnection called the Obon Festival. This festival is a Buddhist tradition that has been celebrated for over 500 years. Though Halloween is celebrated differently in Japan, it is still enjoyed for many similar reasons as elsewhere around the world. More than anything, Halloween in Japan is fun, fun, fun! There is a big party culture around Halloween and it is the perfect time to dress up and embrace your inner child! This is something that’s definitely part of contemporary Japanese culture - cosplay!
Cosplay - aka ‘Costume Play’ - is big in Japan and Halloween offers a special occasion for cosplayers to indulge their spooky side. Want to know more? As ever, we’re here to help with a very brief history of cosplay. Cosplay is one of the main reasons Halloween grew quickly in Japan. It allows those that enjoy dressing up a chance to do so outside of conventions.Many people define cosplay as performance art. After World War II, girl comics, or “shojo,” helped develop an interest in cosplay through full-body fashion illustrations. Soon, shojo manga became a fashion magazine as well as a storybook. Girls could purchase clothing that matched their favourite characters, and started writing fan-driven character identities and alternative storylines, which, when combined with fashion, became important creative factors for cosplay. America was also getting into cosplay after WWII. In the 1960s, the famous show Star Trek sparked a heightened cultural interest in science fiction, and fans started dressing up at conventions. Nobuyuki Takahashi, a Japanese film director, impressed by the cosplayers, brought the idea back with him to Japan and encouraged convention attendees to start dressing up. He called it, “kosupure,” or costume-play. Of course, alongside cosplay and closely related in many ways, is Japan’s love of anime, manga, computer games, and all things cute (or kawaii).
Travel tips during for Halloween in Japan
- Bring cash, as some places might not take credit cards;
- Use pocket wi-fi to stay up-to-date on events;
- Travelling by foot is easier in big cities;
- Eat at convenience stores for cheap food;
- And most importantly, whether it’s a party on a train or a parade in Tokyo Disneyland, dressing up is a must!
Finally, for even more on Halloween in Japan, be sure to read our dedicated Halloween in Japan: Costumes, Parties, & Travel Tips guide.
Of course, Halloween isn’t the only thing going on in Japan during October and November. It’s a great time to visit this unforgettable country for lots of other reasons too. For example, check out these autumnal recommendations when planning your visit:
- Walking and Hiking: If you’re all partied out from Halloween and want to clear your head by reconnecting with nature and enjoying some fresh air then Japan has some of the world’s most beautiful walking and hiking trails. And the autumn months offer some of the best weather throughout the whole year. One of the great things about Japan is that you don’t necessarily have to be in the middle of nowhere to find excellent hiking trails either. Even with a day trip from major cities like Tokyo, Kyoto and Osaka, you can enjoy some terrific hikes and take a break from the urban jungles. Mount Takao, which is within reach of Tokyo, is an ideal hiking destination in October and is also a popular autumn foliage viewing spot. More on this pastime below. With multiple trails to choose from, you can spend as much or as little time as you like hiking at Mount Takao. Paths like the Omotesando Trail and the Biwa Waterfall Trail are either paved or well maintained, and are perfect for a gentle stroll. Then there are the tougher ones that take you right up the mountain to the observation deck at the summit. Of course, if you do want to head off the beaten path to more remote locations, Japan has plenty to offer too and October is the perfect month to do it. Other walking and hiking trails include the famous Nakasendo Trail, the historic Futabanosato Trail through Hiroshima, and hiking through the atmospheric rural towns of Kibune and Kurama in the northern mountains of Kyoto. For general hiking and walking tips for Japan read our Quick Guide to Hiking.
- Autumn Food: October and November is a great time for food festivals in Japan such as the Tokyo Ramen Show and the Hokkaido Food Festival. There’s so much delicious food being celebrated during these months that it has led to the phrase ‘autumn’s appetite’. It’s no surprise when you consider this is the season which brings dishes and flavours such as hearty and warming Ramen, persimmons (Kaki), pine mushroom broth, pumpkin soup, chestnuts, Kyoho grapes, sweet potato, comforting Pacific mackerel and Sanma fish, and many others, to the forefront of menus. There is even such a thing as ‘Maple Tempura’, which sees fresh leaves salted or sugared and then fried in tempura batter as a snack. For more on food, read our guide to Japan’s Food Festivals.
- Harvest Festivals: This season’s festivals tend to focus on the harvest and moon. One of the biggest festivals during these months is the Takayama Matsuri in Takayama City, Gifu Prefecture. Held twice a year, the Takayama festival takes place at Hachiman Shrine and sees beautiful lanterns and floats parade through the night. Other autumn festivals include the Matsue Suitoro in Honshu, the Asama Onsen Taimatsu matsuri, and the Kurama-no-hi matsuri in the mountains near Kyoto, which as we mentioned above is also a great place for seasonal hiking. For more on Matsuri, read our guide to The Top 12 Traditional Festivals to Visit Across Japan.