Halloween in Tokyo 2010

October 8, 2010

The popularity of Halloween seems to be snowballing each year in Japan. Although this phenomenon is largely thanks to opportunistic sellers of pumpkin-based novelty tat, I don’t mind- I’m fully in favour of any festival where you don’t have to buy any presents, it’s acceptable to dress up as a gorilla and get drunk, and women wear raunchy Wonderwoman costumes.

If you want to see some eye-poppingly inventive costumes, I highly recommend checking out the Halloween parade at Kawasaki’s Citadella area on Sunday the 31st. Some of the more incredible costumes could only have been made by professional prosthetic make-up artists. The parade itself is more like a deranged gay Mari-Gras than a family festival, and involves a horde of hedonistic costumed revellers staggering after floats blasting out psychedelic trance music, to the bemusement of passing Sunday shoppers.
Here are some pics from a previous year.

The festivities kick off at 14:30, but if you want to enter the costume competition, you have to register for 12:30. (Although, I wouldn’t bother registering unless you’ve got some help from the Jim Henson creature workshop).
After the parade everybody hits nearby Club Citta for a big after party, with drinking and dancing, from 16:30.

Also that Sunday night is Wild Mood Swings, a free Halloween DJ party in Shibuya, from 7-midnight in Club Echo (which is at the end of Center Gai, on the left). I thoroughly recommend this (since I’m one of the DJs!) Come along to Shibuya Echo and dance like the re-animated corpse of Michael Jackson.

Meanwhile, Metropolis magazine have their annual Halloween Glitterball costume party, Double Trouble, in Vanity Lounge and Bar on Thursday 29th.
On Saturday the 30th, pretty much every club in Tokyo has a Halloween event, including Ageha, Womb, and Air, among others.

Also worth popping into, are some bars and restaurants that are creepy and ghoulish all year round. Here’s a list below:
Vampire Cafe, a bloodsucker-themed eaterie in Ginza.
Alcatraz ER, a bizarre place, styled like haunted prison hospital, in Shibuya.
3 Bozu Paradise, Yokohama’s Frankenstein restaurant.
Halloween, in Yokohama, a small bar where it’s Halloween every day.

If you’re looking for some daytime Halloween hi-jinks, there are the usual festivities going on at Tokyo Disneyand. And if you fancy a particularly weird day out, you can visit Yumenoshima Tropical Greenhouse Dome, a botanical garden on Tokyo’s Yume no Shima (Dream Island), where you can see and touch 50 giant pumpkins weighing up to 100kg, if that’s the sort of thing you’re into. Apparently, on opening day, they had a contest to see who could spit pumpkin seeds the furthest, and an event in which people were raced down a hill by rolling giant pumpkins (like Indiana Jones at the beginning of “Raiders of the Lost Ark”). Sounds like my kind of place!

St Patrick’s Day in Matsue

March 24, 2010

What is supposedly Japan’s second largest annual St Patrick’s Day celebration (after the one in Omotesando, Tokyo) took place last week in Matsue.
Matsue, in Shimane prefecture, is rather remote, and quite an unusual location for an Irish festival. Many of the festivities are centered around an Irish pub that has the distinction of only being open one day every year!
It sounds like a potentially weird and entertaining event, and Andrew Hill was there to see it first hand:

I’ve constantly heard it billed as the second largest St. Paddy’s festival in Japan, next to Tokyo. In reality I think it’s probably the biggest outside of the greater Tokyo Metropolitan area. Fun times though, I was on TV screaming about the holiday. Matsue is obsessed with the Irish because (only in Japan) famed writer Lafcadio Hearn lived in the city for several months back in the late 19th century.

The Irish pub they open twice a year is neat, but nothing great. There’s a museum in Matsue inside what was once a large bank. Downstairs in the vaults, they hold special exhibits, and during the St. Paddy’s weekend, they convert the largest vault into a bar, and bring in kegs of guiness and round up an Irish music band, consisting of a few local expats and several Japanese. They sounded pretty good.

All in all, fun, but nothing special really. Next year the lead foreign musicians are leaving Japan, so the fate of the band is up in the air. Probably better staying in Tokyo to celebrate the holiday.

It looks like a cute little local festival families- not ideal for a mammoth all-night drinking bender, but good fun nonetheless! here are some of Andrew’s snaps:

Valentine’s Nonsense

February 13, 2010

Valentine’s Day, like everything else, has been warped by Japan’s cultural filters like a reflection in a funhouse mirror. Here’s what I had to say about it a couple of years ago.

It is traditional for Japanese women to give chocolates to the men they love on Valentine’s Day. Ladies, if you want to make more of an impression this year, why not present your loved one with some of the seasonal chocolate beer I wrote about a couple of weeks ago? Or, even better, with this heart-shaped Domino’s pizza?

Pizza and beer are surefire shortcuts to a man’s heart.

Anyway, I’m about to lapse into a diabetic coma from all the chocolate I’ve been eating, so here, for your listening pleasure, is a tacky 80s song called “Valentine’s Kiss”, sung by women in swimsuits.

And here are some amusingly dated chocolate commercials starring Japanese pop stars.

Jamaiican Fest 2009

May 11, 2009

This weekend I went to the Jamaiican festival in Tokyo’s Yoyogi park, featuring a live Reggae Soundsystem, live painting, stalls selling Jamaiican jewelry and garments, and lots of food stalls (with long queues). I ate jerk chicken and drank Red Stripe and Hemp beer. It was fun but the expected haze of marijuana smoke was conspicuously absent! Here are some photos taken by my mate, Frank.

While I’m on the subject of Jamaiica, I’ve discovered an entertaining blog by a Japanese girl in Jamaiica. That must be one hell of a culture clash! But the girl seems streetwise and well equipped to deal with any problems over there. Here’s a typical extract:

A man who comes up and says “You come here for big anaconda,eh?” Do you find him appealing? He is just mocking you. So whenever someone says this to me, I stare at his crotch, put my hand on my hip and say “Im dead or wha? Mi no see notten between yu leg! Though mi see dem big one inna Japan” and walk away. This anaconda talk is not a come on. It’s funny though.

Check out the link here: Weh Miss Chin Seh?

The Least Festive Things to Do in Japan this Christmas

December 17, 2008

“Holidays are Coming, holidays are coming,” as the incredibly irritating TV advert for Coca-Cola reminds us every year, but in Japan these are not holidays as we know them. Christmas has been so badly mangled by Japan’s cultural filters, that it has been rendered unreconizable. Strawberry cake anybody?
This cultural confusion has happily led to ridiculous products such as this:

I suspect devout Christians would say that the inexplicable Japanese seasonal customs of pigging out on KFC and banging each others brains out in love hotels, were not in the true spirit of Christmas.

I, on the other hand, am fully in favour of both activities and do them most weekends. Indeed, I think I might grab a bucket of the Colonel’s finger-licken’ finest right now, and use it to coax a hungry lady into the outrageous “Hotel Chapel Christmas” (pictured below. Yep, it looks like that all year round.)

Japan is not traditionally a Christian country, so I don’t expect the Japanese to adopt our Western festivals. Although, this hasn’t stopped opportunistic retailers doing their best to take advantage of Christmas, by decorating their shops and blasting out cheesy songs for the whole of December. And yet, the decorations have already been taken down and boxed away by the time the shops open for business on the 25th.
On Christmas Day, it’s all over. The big build-up has been for nothing, the decorations were just for decoration’s sake.
This can be quite depressing if you let it get to you. Especially if, instead of a stocking bulging with gifts, you see things like this on Christmas morning:

I find the best policy is to ignore that it’s Christmas Day altogether, and have fun anyway.
In fact, it might be a fun challenge to find the least Christmassy things you could possibly do.
Here are my suggestions for the most unseasonal things you can do in Tokyo over the festive period:

1: See “The C*nts” and “F*ck on the Beach” live at 20000 Volts live house.

Take in some live music, courtesy of “The C*NTS,” “Slight Slappers,” and “Painjerk”. On December 27th, at 20,000 Volts live house in Kouenji, you can see these bands and others presenting a night of music called “WET PUSSY GETS WILD vol.1”.
I’m pretty sure they won’t be singing any Christmas carols.
It starts at 18:30 and costs 1,500 yen.
Also, if you like that, on the 28th at the same venue, you can watch performances by “F*ck on the Beach”, “Scumbanditz”, and “Hacked Rabbit House”. Ho ho ho!


2. Check out Yoko Ono’s New Art Exhibition.
Here’s a very unconventional way to spend Christmas Day- at Yoko Ono’s new “interactive painting show” at Gallery 360 in Omotesando. The wailing weirdo’s pretentious paintings are the polar opposite of the traditional imagery associated with Christmas, courtesy of Norman Rockwell. She probably made John Lennon so jaded that he wrote “Merry Christmas: War is Over,” so her exhibition is bound to be highly un-Christsmassy.

3. See the “Miracles of the Human Body” show.
Fancy spending Christmas day, like Hannibal Lecter, staring at bits of dead bodies?
Well, you can, sir! Just hop on a train to Kawasaki and see the stomach-churning exhibition “Miracles of The Human Body,” featuring real dead bodies, pickled and stuff by that creepy German fella. It’s even open on Christmas day.


Kawasaki is surely a contender for weirdest place on Earth, with their deranged Fertility and Halloween Festivals and high rate of bizarre, frightening murders, so there’s no more inappropriate place to spend the 25th.

4: Watch “Lou Reed’s Berlin”
Depressed that you’re in a strange foreign land on Christmas day? You can always head to the local cinema and watch a movie, and let the story sweep you away to a happy place for two hours. “Lou Reed’s Berlin,” now showing in Tokyo, is sure to cheer you up: a concert film of Lou Reed’s 1973 notoriously miserable and nihilistic concept album, Berlin, about a prostitute committing suicide. As you sit alone, shivering in empty theatre, the relentless dirge will be the perfect antidote to Christmas blues. Or not, perhaps.

Kawasaki Halloween Pics 2008

October 27, 2008

Here are some of my usual out-of-focus snaps, of this year’s Halloween festival in Kawasaki.

Halloween in Tokyo 2008: Vampires, S & M, and Ozzy Osbourne

October 23, 2008

Yay- It’s time for Halloween- yet another festival that has passed through Japan’s cultural filters and morphed into something fun, idiosyncratic and weird. Halloween is brilliant in Tokyo- all the wild parties, horror movies and costumes, without any pesky trick-or-treating kids getting in the way. I wrote about Halloween in Japan last year here.

There are plenty of suitably spooky places to go- as well as various venues that are creepy all year round, such as Shibuya’s Alcatraz ER (a prison hospital-themed restaurant/bar) or the gothic Vampire cafe, there are loads of parties and freaky festivities you might like to check out.

Feeling adventurous? How about “EROTICA HALLOWEEN 2008” on the 31st at Club Warehouse 702, described by the promoters as “A Haunted World Beyond Your Imagination…Enjoy all night non stop EROTICA show, DJs, S&M play area, tarot fortune telling. Win 300,000 JPY at costume competition. Costume judgment by DRAG QUEENs. DRESS CODE : Fetish Clothing, Bondage, Corset, Sexy Nurse, Nylon, Gothic, Leather, Rubber, Drag…e.t.c.”

Truly demented.
If your bondage gear is still at the dry cleaners, don’t worry. There are lots of less weird, but no less wild club events in Tokyo at Pure (where it’s all-you-can-drink all night once you’ve paid to get in) on the 31st, a techno rave-up at Differ, Ariake also on the 31st, Metropolis Magazine‘s “Glitterball” costume shindig on October 30th at Club Womb, which they’ve been promoting the hell out of since about June (the main attraction being an insane 5 hour all-you-can-drink deal for 2500 yen. Dangerous!) and a huge party at Shinkiba’s cavernous Ageha (click here to read a guy’s antics at Ageha last Halloween.)

If you want to do the Monster Mash to some live music, you could head to Zepp Tokyo in Odaiba on the 30th and 31st to see special Halloween performances by the bands VAMPS, Tommy heavenly6, Monoral and Acid Black Cherry among others, at the “Nightmare of Halloween” event. Alternatively you could check out the devilish darkwave duo, Aural Vampire at Differ Ariake on the 31st. Aural Vampire resemble an unholy partnership between Jason Vorhees and a voluptuous Victorian vamp.

And what could be more appropriate for Halloween than a performance by none other than Ozzy Osbourne, shuffling around, yelling “Sharon!” and biting the heads off bats, in the Nippon Budokan on October 27th.

If this after-hours hedonism is too rich for you, you could always pay a visit to good old Tokyo Disneyland, and check out Mickey’s not-very-scary parade. The calendar of events at Tokyo Disneyland is here.

I’m always up for a gathering, but I think I’ll give the notorious guerilla-style Yamanote line Halloween train party a miss- it sounds about as fun as my daily commute to work, with the added annoyance of being stuck in the middle of a volatile mix of over-excited, vomiting teens, and enraged, xenophobic kill-joys.
No thanks! I’m more than happy to pay the extra few yen to get into a club with cocktails, a large dancefloor, and nubile women in WonderWoman costumes.

If you’re going to be in nearby Yokohama, you could dine in discomfort in 3 Bozu Cafe, a poky Frankenstein-themed eatire, surrounded by pictures and statues of the un-dead green guy, or pay a visit to a bar which is actually called “Halloween” all year round.

I always try to attend the Kawasaki Halloween festival, which features a parade of folks wearing the most inventitive and outlandish costumes you could ever hope to see, guzzling cans of chu-hai and staggering like escapees from hell through the city streets behind floats blasting out trance music.

After the parade, everyone convenes in Kawasaki’s Club Citta for a crazy party which, last year, featured a performance from a funky 70s covers band with afros.
The parade is on Sunday the 26th, from 14:30 to 16:00 around Kawasaki’s Cittadella area, then the after party’s from 17:00-22:00 in Club Citta (entrance is 1500 yen.)
I wrote about it last year here, and click here for the official site.