By Paola Marisela González
Halloween has become increasingly celebrated around the world in the past decades, and Japan is no exception to this. However, in every country, Halloween is adapted to suit local interests, and this has made Halloween in Japan a very unique celebration especially in big cities like Tokyo and Osaka. Also unique is how Japan’s strong seasonal sales drives and keen eye on popular retail trends manifest during Halloween. If you’re considering expanding your business to Japan, learn by example below how Japanese businesses are making the most of the season, following trends to drive their sales.
How is Halloween Celebrated in Japan?
In Japan, cosplay fans already dress up regularly for conventions and to stroll around trendy areas like Harajuku. Halloween gives them another opportunity to dress up as part of a bigger celebration
On Halloween night, you will find people dressed in a variety of costumes, from Japanese anime and manga characters (the most popular theme), characters from video games, TV shows and film, to traditional monsters as well as cute and sexy outfits. Don Quijote and Daiso are some of the most popular shops from which to buy costumes, make-up and decorations. However, Halloween-related products can be found at stores all over Japan during the season.
Trick-or-Treating, a grand Halloween tradition, is one aspect of Halloween that does not happen in Japan. Halloween is mainly targeted at teenagers and young adults looking to have fun and party all night long, to whom asking for candy is obviously not that appealing. Despite this, there are some special events for kids in international schools, in which trick-or-treating may be included to demonstrate how Halloween is celebrated in other countries.
Main events during Halloween in Japan
Halloween in Japan is mainly celebrated through street parties where people wear all kinds of stunning costumes and party into the early hours.
Parades and costume contests are also among the most preferred ways that Japanese people celebrate Halloween. Popular attractions such as theme parks usually have special events to entice more visitors during this season.
Tokyo’s Roppongi Hills, Ikebukuro and Shibuya districts host some of the most popular Halloween street parties
Another popular Halloween party in Tokyo is the Ikebukuro Halloween Cosplay Festival. This festival started in 2014, and in 2019 gathered over 20,000 cosplayers that dressed up as their favourite anime, manga or videogame characters. In normal years, around 100,000 attendees regularly assist as spectators of this festival to watch the different performances that make up this two-day event.
While street parties were the main stages of the Japanese Halloween tradition, in 2020 they were cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. However, they generally re-commenced in 2021 under social distancing restrictions, receiving fewer attendees than usual. To much fanfare, Ikebukuro Halloween Cosplay Festival will be held again on the 29th-30th of October 2022. Restrictions will be more relaxed than last year, however guests will still be required to wear masks and use hand sanitizers.
Another big event taking place during Halloween in Japan is in Kawasaki city in Kanagawa Prefecture. Usually, the event includes a Halloween parade, live music performances, a costume contest and a dance party at night. The parade gathers approximately 2,000 participants that walk along a 1.5 kilometre course, and it welcomes over 120,000 spectators. Notably, this event also includes an option for children, as they have their very own parade one day before the main one.
Many Halloween parties in Japan are designed for adults as it is primarily for people having a good time wearing costumes, hanging out with friends and drinking. Sometimes these can become rather chaotic, so it is better to attend them without children. However, there are child-friendly options.
Crowds of people also gather in Roppongi Hills every year for a kid-friendly parade that has a different theme each year. Cafés and restaurants in that area offer some limited-edition Halloween menus to complement the experience.
Japanese Theme Parks
Japanese theme parks are key places that put on spooky themes during Halloween. Tokyo Disneyland, Universal Studios and Sanrio Puroland offer some unique experiences that enable people to enjoy Halloween in Japan.
Tokyo Disneyland ran the first official Halloween festival in Japan in 1997. Since then, it has become a popular attraction site for Halloween and Disney fans. During this time of the year, adults are allowed to come into Disneyland and DisneySea wearing Disney character costumes. Throughout the rest of the year, costumes and cosplaying are only allowed for children aged 11 and younger.
During Tokyo Disney’s Halloween events, there are decorations around the park, special menus are available at the park’s restaurants, cafés and food stands, as well as Halloween merchandise that is only available to purchase during this period. Usually, the main highlight of the festival is the “Spooky ‘Boo!’ Parade” featuring over 100 floats. Once it is dark, you can spot ghosts and goblins that glow in the dark walking around the park.
Halloween at Tokyo Disney was unfortunately cancelled in 2020 to prevent the spread of COVID-19, but recommenced with reduced capacity in 2021. Due to cancellations and other COVID-19 measures, overall visitors to Tokyo Disney fell from approximately 30 million per year in prior years to 7.5 million in financial 2020. With the easing of pandemic restrictions and recent opening of the border to foreign tourists, we can expect a gradual return towards normal levels.
Universal Studios Japan
Universal Studios Japan, located in Osaka, usually hosts daytime Halloween parades and Halloween Horror Nights as part of their NO LIMIT! Halloween event. These events were cancelled and scaled down over 2020 and 2021 respectively, but are now coming back in full swing again for Japan’s Halloween 2022. Their website claims that the “Street Zombies” event in particular will reach a bigger scale than ever before. Additionally, In the wake of its massive success in Universal Orlando Florida, the Universal Monsters: Legends of Fear maze will come to Japan for the first time, where visitors will be accosted by famous Universal monsters such as Frankenstein and Dracula.
There will also be a collaborative event between Universal and Sanrio, with wildly popular characters My Melody and Kuromi making their first appearance, where people will be able to meet and greet with workers wearing kigurumi costumes of the characters. While their cute and inoffensive appearances may make them especially beloved by children, they boast a strong following among young adults – especially those interested in kawaii culture. While most COVID-19 safety measures have been removed, visitors still need to wear a mask within the grounds of Universal Studios Japan, which can be taken off only in designated “mask free zones”.
Sanrio Puroland hosts the Puro Halloween Party every year with a masquerade theme and various types of Halloween parties held at the park during day and night. The entire park is elaborately decorated, and special photo scenes can be found throughout the venue. Halloween food, drinks and merchandise also become available during this period.
The theme for Sanrio Puroland 2022 is “Trick or Treat!” – well-known in Japan as a Halloween slogan despite trick or treating not being highly popular. Attractions will be back to their full pre-pandemic scale, with a Trick or Treat stage show, a lightshow, character greetings and photo spots. Also introduced this year is the park’s first immersive horror experience – Vampire Butler Cafe: The Broken Law.
Limited edition seasonal goods for Halloween in Japan 2022
During Halloween in Japan, lots of related merchandise becomes available in stores and restaurants, and themed sweet treats are one of the main products of the season. This year’s biggest trend amongst food and drink retailers is Japanese ube purple sweet potato. Continuing, some of the most notable releases are the KitKat Halloween Break Assorted Pack with 14 different individual colourful designs, which include more unusual flavours like purple apple pie among the more common ones. The assorted pack bag also comes with instructions to make an origami box, making it an environmentally friendly product that aims to reduce waste.
Doughnut retailers are also fond of offering Halloween-themed seasonal goods. For example, Krispy Kreme Japan runs its ‘Sweet Night Halloween’ campaign, Differing from previous years in which seasonal ingredients such as pumpkin and sweet potato were used, these cute doughnuts come in flavours such as white chocolate, strawberry chocolate and mixed fruit. These limited edition doughnuts will be available until November 1st, and it is possible to buy them individually as well as in boxes of 6 or 12.
Mister Donut has also once again released 5 different types of Halloween treats to get customers into the spooky mood.
To keep up with the trend, Floresta Nature Doughnuts is releasing two separate seasonal promotions. First is a new addition to their Animal Doughnut series – the “Halloween Doughnuts Set” – which will be available through their online store until orders run out due to their limited availability. The second is a collaboration with one of the most popular Sanrio characters – Pompompurin – “Pompompurin Halloween Collab Donuts”. These doughnuts come in three different flavours, white chocolate, pumpkin butter and purple sweet potato, and will be available in store and online.
Starbucks Japan is also offering a Halloween special menu. Their Purple Halloween Frappuccino is blended with purple sweet potato cream and topped with purple sweet potato powder and purple sweet potato vanilla sauce. Alongside this, one can also order a Raspberry Halloween Cake with an eerily oozing red filling.
They also released Halloween merchandise, including mugs and plushies. Baskin Robbins (more commonly known as ’31’ in Japan) has released their 5 Halloween Flavours, which are available until October 31st. Also riding Japan’s purple sweet potato trend, these consist of purple sweet potato; pumpkin pudding; cotton candy; caramel pudding cream and mint chocolate & popping candy. Also on the line-up for Halloween is their collaborative product with Kit-Kat, the Odd Sundae. As we can see from these examples, there are many sweet and tasty options to enjoy during Halloween in Japan.
Halloween in Japan 2022: virtual fun in the wake of a frightening virus
In 2020 and 2021, to prevent the further spread of COVID-19 while celebrating Halloween in Japan, the Shibuya Ward asked people to stay at home, resulting in many festivals hosting online events. One notable example that chose to continue this trend was Shibuya Halloween Festival. Their 3rd Virtual Shibuya Halloween Festival will be held online from October 26th to 31st 2022, featuring special metaverse events, immersive content and a collaboration with the upcoming film Sadako DX – the latest instalment in the infamous horror franchise “The Ring”. Reflecting growing buzz around the potential of virtual reality in Japan, many of the attractions at this online event are related to the metaverse and VR technology.
The Ikebukuro Halloween Cosplay Festival will also take place online on October 31st, as well as Kawasaki Halloween, where anybody in the world can participate by posting a costume video across different social media channels using the hashtag #oneworldhalloween from October 1st to 31st.
For those interested in participating in the costume contest, the deadline to post is on October 25th because the winner of the contest will be announced during the online event on the 31st.
Planning Your Halloween Sales Campaign in Japan?
As we’ve established, Halloween maintains high popularity in Japan, and exists as a great opportunity to drive sales – particularly in the food and drink and events sectors. However, with yearly-changing trends and culturally-relevant marketing techniques, it can be hard to plan your Halloween sales campaign in Japan on your own. This is where we come in. Our multicultural, bilingual team will provide in-depth, globally aware market research and other Japan market expansion services to help you to excel in the Japanese market. Interested in making your mark on the Japanese market? Contact Tokyoesque.
See also: Halloween in Japan 2019
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