Halloween has come a long way from its origins in Christian festivals for the dead and ancient harvest festivals marking the end of summer. These days it's more about looking as silly as possible (no, even that Scream costume is not scary), a custom that was popularised in the US in the early 1900s. In Japan, too, there is none of the doom and gloom of the holiday's historical association with death, which may have something to do with the fact the celebration first made waves at Tokyo Disneyland.
Even if you're not planning an all-nighter on the last weekend of October, it's still worth heading down to Shibuya or Shinjuku just to laugh at the outlandish costumes on show. And if you're one of those donning an outlandish costume, check out our event guide for both All Hallows' Eve and the week before the big day.
PARADES AND FESTIVALS
Futako-Tamagawa Halloween Party
Getting in ahead of the pack, Futako-Tamagawa shopping centre Rise celebrates Halloween a whole week before the big day. This weekend celebration is returning for its second edition after a successful maiden run last year, and organisers Rakuten are expecting to beat the 2015 number of 4,000 parade participants.
There are processions on both Saturday (at 3pm) and Sunday (1pm), while the costume contests are open for everyone from babies to pets (!). Shops inside and around the complex will be taking part in trick or treat festivities, giving away candy to young 'uns in costume. If you're looking to celebrate Halloween with the kids, far away from the raucous action of Shibuya and Roppongi, this one should fit the bill.
Tamagawa Halloween Festival
Elmo, Kermit and friends invade the Tamagawa Takashimaya shopping centre for Sesame Street-themed Halloween fun, including a kids-and-parents costume parade on October 29 (from 11.30am), a series of 'greeting events' (shake paws with the fluffy fellows) and a 'stamp rally' with generous candy prizes. To start collecting stamps, you'll need to spend 500 yen or more at one of the centre's shops.
Ueno Halloween 2016
Ueno goes spooky for the latter half of October, when area shops, restaurants and cafés will be celebrating Halloween with special offerings, a 'stamp rally' and other more or less profitable schemes. The main action comes on October 29, when costumed revellers will be parading from Ueno Park to Okachimachi Station while doing their best to convince the judges of the simultaneously held costume contest.
To take part, sign up in advance (2,000 yen, children 1,000 yen) or just show up (in costume, of course) on the day at the park's Fountain Plaza between 10am and 1pm. Meanwhile, idol performances and fashion shows will be taking place on the plaza just south of Okachimachi Station on both October 29 and 30 (11am-5pm).
Harajuku-Omotesando Hello Halloween Pumpkin Parade
The Hello Halloween Pumpkin Parade, an annual Halloween parade in which around 1,300 children under twelve dress up to form a parade that spans the 700m long zelkova-tree-lined section of Omotesando, takes place for the 34th time this year. In addition to the parade itself, there will be a special Okashi Rally Map available that shows the whereabouts of a number of participating shops in the Omotesando/Harajuku area that will be giving away okashi (sweets) to children.
Finally, many cooperating cafés and restaurants will be presenting special Halloween-themed menus throughout the month of October – check this page for the full list.
Roppongi Hills Halloween Parade
Movies are the 2016 theme for Roppongi Hills's annual Halloween parade, so come dressed up as your favourite hero/heroine and join the celebration from 10.30am. Anyone wearing a costume can participate – just sign up at the Arena on the day and you'll be assigned to a group, which will then strut around the area for a good 30 minutes. Younger participants will receive a handful of free candy, while grown-ups might want to check out the plentiful festival food and drink on offer.
La Cittadella's Kawasaki Halloween is back for its 20th anniversary edition and features an appropriately powered-up version of the annual parade: on October 30, costumed revellers will be making the walk around the area while jamming to dance tunes courtesy of DJ Taku Takahashi. Registration for the parade costs 1,000 yen, but just watching the spectacle is of course completely free.
In addition to the main event, Cittadella's stores run special Halloween discounts and campaigns through the month of October, while the Cinecitta movie theatre plays The Rocky Horror Show and a programme of six appropriately scary cult horror flicks. Finally, on October 31, you'll be able to combine costumed dancing with bar-hopping, as restaurants around the area lure the dressed-up crowd with treats and discounts before the action concludes with a party at Club Citta.
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