Halloween is, somewhat surprisingly, widely celebrated in Japan. Despite not being a traditional Japanese holiday, it has been broadly accepted and celebrated over the last few decades. In addition to not being an original Japanese holiday, it is also a fairly new celebration for the country. The first Halloween in Japan took place in 2000 at Disneyland Tokyo and was a huge success. Since then, the holiday has skyrocketed in popularity.
Despite holding the same name, Halloween in Japan is not the same thing as Halloween in other countries such as the United States- although it does take place on the same date of October 31st. In the United States, it is a holiday that ushers in “spooky season” and is associated with scary movies, ghosts, fun decorations, candy, and, most importantly, trick-or-treating. It is also a holiday for both children and adults to enjoy in the US. In Japan, however, this is not the case. Japanese Halloween is an event primarily celebrated by young adults. The Japanese version of Halloween focuses less on candy and scare factor and more on the costumes.
Cosplay and other activities which involve dressing up as a favorite character have long been popular in Japan- but Halloween is an extra special time for these activities. Although Halloween is less about scares over in Japan, scary and horror-themed costumes are still a common sight, alongside characters from different forms of media, cats, and other costumes you'd likely see here in the US. While there are no little kids walking door to door saying "trick-or-treat!" for candy, the adults in Japan still make Halloween a night to remember with their impressive costumes and wild parties. They even have parties in the street and on trains!
In the late 90s and early 2000s, a group of expats living in Japan began to throw Halloween parties on trains. These parties were fun for the attendees and have certainly turned into a bit of a legend in their own right, but were also a nuisance for regular train passengers and public workers. Nowadays, the train parties are better organized and don’t leave messes and trash behind- like they once did. Now, you even have to register online to get in! What began as a small fringe movement has become a trend all on its own. Similarly organized street parties in larger cities are also extremely common during Halloween.
While the Japanese did not embrace the trick-or-treat tradition, they have fully taken up the art of the jack-o-lantern. It is not uncommon to see carved pumpkins all over the big cities in Japan. Additionally, special Halloween treats are extremely popular in Japan. Throughout September and October shops will sell limited edition snacks, decorations, and more in honor of the holiday.
Moreover, the Japanese do not place a heavy emphasis on the scare factor of Halloween. In the United States, Halloween is believed to be a day where the dead cross over and visit us from beyond, but this aspect is not celebrated in Japan. While the Japanese are traditionally superstitious, they have their own festival called Obon, which typically takes place in August. Obon is the Buddhist festival that honors the dead. During this time is when it is common to see scary movies and other spook-tacular events.