It's the end of October, and one celebration with origins in the ancient pagan times comes to mind: Halloween.
The tradition wants that the night between 31st October and 1st November is when the gate between the world of the living and the dead is open. That's when people set bonfires to scare off ghosts and evil spirits and wear costumes to deceive them.
In Japan, this event is somewhat interesting, because it is treated as a seasonal event and is celebrated with more excitement than in the countries where it originated. Or at least that is my feeling.
Here are the 6 most salient elements:
Right after September's harvest moon orange garlands, pumpkins, witch hats, bats start to appear everywhere. Think of them as our Christmas decorations, just they are for Halloween. Shops, kindergartens and houses all show the results of many hours of work into embellishing the windows. Everything is gone on November 1st.
Bakeries and pastry shops sell limited edition pumpkin flavored delicious little artworks of confectionery. Because all sweets are available for a limited time, people are taken by a shopping frenzy to buy them all and try them, before they're gone. I mean, would you resist to a donut glazed in spiderwebs? Or one coated by a scary pumpkin grin?
One day you go to the supermarket and everything is normal. One day, instead, everything is halloween themed: candies, chocolates, snacks, they all bear a "happy halloween" print or pumpkin smileys; Starbucks sells pumpkin flavored lattes; Baskin Robbins serves ice creams shaped as bats or wizards; bento boxes hide little rice mummies; advertisements feature scary (but cute) images. In short, halloween is totalizing.
Mostly done for children, during the whole month of October lots of themed events are held in various neighborhoods, either indoors or outdoors. I remember I once went to one of those events with some friends. There were dance shows, where kids performed, or amusement parks for children to play, and, of course, tens of huge carved pumpkins that were lit at night. I found them nice, and they give a good excuse to families to go out and spend time all together. Huge amusement parks and theme parks, like Sanrio Puroland and Disneyland have special shows, too.
Of course, the costumes had to be in the list! Everyone has to dress up. The choices of costumes are endless, and can be divided into four categories, the scary ones, the cute ones, the sexy ones, the unrelated ones. Girls prefer wear sexy halloween costumes, most frequent ones are sexy nurse or officer. Guys prefer just wear something, it doesn't matter as long as they have a mask. Then a group of people take the costume wearing to the next level and their scary attire competes with the best make up artists or costume designers.
Last but not least, the Japanese love halloween parties. From the closest Thursday night to October 31st, Tokyo, for example, becomes a mad city where zombies, monsters and evil creatures walk freely day and night. There are just too many people out, and I remind you that Tokyo is already crowded on a daily basis. All clubs in Shibuya and Roppongi gives discounted or even free entrance to those wearing costumes, and as the good party people, the Japanese go out and enjoy the night of the living dead, again and again. Probably halloween parties are just another excuse to drink and have fun, be crazier.
As a recommendation to those who have problems with crowds, be advised that cities are wild in the few days around the end of October, so plan your moves accordingly.
However, missing one of Tokyo's halloween parties would be a shame. There is no better place to be during halloween than in Japan! Just drink wisely, follow the rules, and enjoy.