October is just around the corner and that means it is time for Halloween. Halloween is a little different in Japan. Halloween itself has Pagan and Christian origins, yet today is primarily a holiday of spooky fun and celebration–at least in my home of North America. Last year was my first Halloween in the Land of the Rising Sun and I can’t wait for the next one. What’s not to love about the parties, seasonal treats, and the…Gaijin Train?
Popular in Japan and around the world are Halloween parties. The international university I attended had a rowdy party, while some schools I taught at had Halloween activities and parties for the children. We even had the young ghouls and goblins journey room to room saying “Trick-or-Treat” and receiving candies for their efforts. Unfortunately, if you knock on someone’s door October 31st in a terrifying mask, you’ll likely be in trouble with the police because trick-or-treating is not a public custom. I saw decorations around the malls and offices to get us in the holiday mood, but pumpkins being carved were rare. However, oddly enough, pumpkin foods were consumed in masse.
“No, we don’t eat pumpkin on Halloween in America” I recall explaining to my Japanese friends for the seventh time. They do in Japan. One cool thing about Japan around Halloween time is all the pumpkin dishes available. It is not uncommon for Japanese to enjoy eating pumpkin time to time throughout the year, but Halloween is when it’s nearly unavoidable. Pumpkin pie in October? Sure sign me up! Pumpkin flavored coffee? Hmmm… Well I’ll settle for those delectable pumpkin pie cheese cake flavored Kit-Kat bars. Fun Kit Kat flavors like green tea, apple, or soy powder should be reason enough to travel to Japan! And then there is the Gaijin Train.
Every year on or around Halloween there are rumors of the Gaijin Train. A Gaijin is a foreigner. The Gaijin Train, also known as the Halloween Train, is full of Gaijin and their Japanese friends that take over for a night of mayhem. According to official records, the hijacking of a train each year on the Yama-no-te Line (the green line that goes around Tokyo in a giant loop) does not exist. If that is true, why did hundreds of police officers guard the train stations just a few years ago because of concerns from the community? The Halloween Train used to be advertised in English newspapers in Japan, but now like the subway itself, it is underground. Blogs, email, and word of mouth spread among Tokyo’s expatriate community just days before the big event, revealing which train, time, and platform the massive Halloween party takes place.
Japan’s version of Halloween may not be the Halloween I grew up with, but it can be just as fun. I have yet to ride the legendary Gaijin Train, so it remains on my long list of things to still do in Japan. For now I will enjoy dressing up, partying, and eating my Kit Kats and pumpkin.
Hello October and Happy Halloween!!