Halloween customs in Japan

Although, they don’t celebrate western holidays in the conventional sense, they still have similar holidays with their own Japanese twist.

by Anna Marshall

Konnichiwa! I hope everyone is keeping warm.

In Toyokoro, the temperature has decreased dramatically. It seemed within a couple days, the seasons noticeably changed from summer to borderline winter.

About a month ago, Hokkaido was hit by a very mild typhoon. During the day, we experienced all four seasons – beginning with warm, humid summer weather and ending the day with a blizzard.

Since Toyokoro is close to the Pacific Ocean, classes were cancelled so everyone could prepare.

Having never been through a typhoon, I had no idea what they meant by ‘prepare’ except to stay indoors.

Since then, the weather has stayed clear, and cool. Because of this, Toyokoro has become even more beautiful with its maple and elm trees changing from green to rusty orange. I can’t help but think about the festive holidays when I see this.

Even here, it’s starting to feel quite festive.

Although, they don’t celebrate western holidays in the conventional sense, they still have similar holidays with their own Japanese twist.

For example, the majority of the people here are either secular or Buddhist/Shinto. They still celebrate Christmas but with a different tradition – Kentucky Fried Chicken.

People have to order KFC months in advance to be sure they will be able to get some for Christmas day.

Even Halloween has started to take off in Japan in the last 10 years.

This past month, I taught my elementary to adult students about Halloween and it was a big hit.

We carved pumpkins, wrapped toilet paper around each other to create mummies and made masks.

There is a festival here in Japan called Obon that has similar beliefs, and background.

In Hokkaido, Obon takes place in August and is a three-day long event.

During this time, people believe the departed return to earth to visit their old homes.

Families visit their ancestral graves to clean, and maintain them. Traditional music, and dancing is one of the customs during this time.

Obon is concluded with lantern lighting to signal to the dead that it is time to return to the afterlife.

Despite the fact that it’s a Buddhist festival, many people don’t see it as being religious.

In fact, they use this opportunity to reunite with their families and spend the long weekend with one another.

Even though it has similar beliefs as Halloween, it isn’t viewed as scary, but as a happy holiday for family making it quite similar to our Thanksgiving.

Thanks for reading.

Japanese proverb – I no naka no kawazu taikai wo shirazu. (A frog in a well doesn’t know the great sea.)

Anna Marshall is in Summerland’s sister city of Toyokoro, Japan as the assistant English teacher.


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