A Japanese Halloween – much like a Japanese Christmas and Valentine’s day – celebrates the most colorful and enjoyable parts of the day.
This spooky celebration exploded in popularity when Tokyo Disneyland held their Happy Halloween Twilight Parade in 2000. Though it wasn’t the first Halloween parade to the park, this time visitors and characters wore special costumes that sparked a trend spanning almost 20 years.
Now, Halloween is firmly embedded as a festive period of its own. Unlike the West, there’s no neighborhood trick or treating, nor any religious observances. Both foreigners and locals come together (preferably in costume!) to enjoy the organized parades, themed foods, and street parties.
So, how can we find the most exciting Halloween events? Here are our top five petrifying places to be this season.
1. Shibuya Crossing Street Party
This is a place you’ll want to dress to impress! Over one million people donned in their finest Halloween costumes gather around Shibuya crossing and station. It’s an opportunity to wander around, meet new people and of course – take lots of pictures.
Costumes vary from cute to quirky. Some are extremely elaborate, showcasing the best of Japan’s cosplay culture.
The crowds begin to assemble in the early evening and get busier as the night goes on. Rest assured there are restaurants and karaoke stores close by to take a little respite. The average partygoer is between their late teens and early 30s. Due to the large masses of people, this is not the best place to take children or elderly visitors.
As of 2019, Shibuya police have banned drinking in the streets. Temporary toilets are also planned to be installed, as well as security guards to curb any potentially disorderly behavior. “Shibuya Garbage Zero Grand Operation” was also introduced to maintain a clean neighborhood.
Convenience stores such as Family Mart and 7/11 also have clean toilets, bins, and sometimes a few chairs and tables for customers.
Travel tip: Train lines at Shibuya station are extremely busy on Halloween. If possible, try walking to the surrounding stations. Yoyogi is a 34-minute walk; Omotesando will take 13 minutes, and Harajuku is a 16-minute walk.
2. Halloween at Disneyland and Disney Sea
Halloween at the Disney resorts begins from September 10 through to October 31. Disneyland is bathed in a family friendly palette of oranges and purples. Disney Sea takes on a more eerie motif with gothic accents.
Disneyland holds a twice daily parade along a set route. Likewise, Disney Sea also put on a pantomime show three times a day. For the best view, arrive at least 15 minutes early to the venue/route.
Limited edition menu items and merchandise are also released to commemorate each year. Guests to the park are also invited to dress up as Disney characters for their visit. Don’t forget to catch the 20-minute firework display and “Electric Parade” at the end of the evening. The show starts at 8:30, so be sure to find a viewing spot in good time.
3. Halloween at Universal Studios
Running from September 7 to November 4, the attractions at Osaka’s Universal Studios come with their own “horror levels” to suit each age range. There are two zombie themed events: Street Zombies parade at horror level 2, and Zombie de Dance with no horror level.
Young children can play trick or treat at Minion Park and receive special candy from the staff. The Wonderland Season’s Joy show brings your favorite characters in an all singing, all dancing Halloween bonanza!
Older children and teenagers are invited to enjoy thrilling rides, mazes and elaborate shows. Explore Area 51 and uncover the truth behind the conspiracy; experience the terrifying curse of Sadako or dare to ride through the black hole!
Especially for adults, Universal Studios presents a section devoted to the haunting aesthetic of fear. A Cursed Rose Garden awaits, along with a vampire show and cocktail lounge with a professional photographer.
Travel tip: A few of the evening attractions open at the same time. Try to catch an evening parade beforehand, as they don’t run throughout the night.
4. Nagashima Spa Land
Located in Kuwana city in the Mie prefecture, Spa Land celebrates two different types of Halloween. Kid Town hosts child friendly dress up events with photo spots, themed food and shows. When the sun goes down, Nagashima Zombie Island takes over Horror Street and the Party Dome.
Visitors to Zombie Island can collect gory stamps as they explore the area and exchange them for prizes. Guest DJs bring the soundtrack to an unforgettable night of dancing with the undead.
The evening entertainment ends at 7:30 in the evening, leaving the rest of the night to be enjoyed at the resort’s onsen and outlet mall.
5. Kyoto Kitayama Halloween Festival
Entering it’s 22nd year, this festival earned its popularity by drawing on traditional activities. Pumpkins are sold and carved at the Kyoto Prefectural Ceramic Plate Masterpiece Garden in mid-September.
A costume party, complete with fancy dress competition, is held closer to Halloween. DJs and a circus team are booked for the evening’s entertainment. There are also local market stalls selling foods and handicrafts around the area.
The yearly parade is a highlight for young and old. Members of the community can fill out an online form to participate. The walk lasts between 60-90 minutes and proves once again a great opportunity to marvel in Japan’s costume culture.
Buying a Costume in Japan
There are two main places that guarantee a varied selection of Halloween costumes from September onwards: Don Quijote discount store, and Daiso 100-yen store. With locations all over Japan, both stores sell costumes for all ages.
If you’re on a tight budget, or aren’t looking for anything too elaborate, Daiso or any 100-yen store have costume staples like hats, masks and cloaks. For more statement pieces, Don Quijote sells ready to wear packaged costumes starting at 3000 yen. They also have a larger variety and their outfits are made to last.
If your time in Japan coincides with Halloween, you’ll want to experience just how enthusiastically this festival has been adopted.
You don’t have to dress up or carve pumpkins to take in the exciting displays and delicious foods. However, the spirit of the season is infectious, and well worth trying if only for one day.