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!

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.


April 10, 2008

Kawasaki City’s annual penis-celebrating fertility festival, the Kanamara Matsuri took place on Sunday and was as crazy as ever. A highlight was the appearance of Gachachin, a grotesquely mutated phallic version of the popular cuddly character, Gachapin. Gachapin usually looks like this:

…and this is Gachachin:

Truly, deeply warped. He looks like the bad-trip hallucination of Sigmund Freud watching children’s television on mescalin.
I wonder if we can expect to see more of Gachachin in the future?
I, for one, would like to see him do battle against Flesh Gordon.

Penis Party 2008

March 19, 2008

The first Sunday in April is almost here, which means it’s almost time for Kawasaki’s notorious Kanamara fertility festival, at which an enormous pink penis is paraded around town by transvestites, vegetables are carved into phallic shapes, and crowds nibble on pink schlong-shaped lollipops. Before you sigh “those crazy Japanese people,” I should point out that these days the voyeuristic, giggling Western tourists outnumber the locals.
Festivities take place on Sunday April 6th, at Wakamiya Hachimangu Shrine in Kawasaki from around 10AM to 4PM. To get there, take the Daishi Line to Kawasaki Daishi station. Go out of the exit and you’ll see Wakamiya Hachimangu shrine across the street, to the right.
Tel: (044) 222-3206
You can read a story I wrote about it last year, with accompanying photos, here– which is by far the most popular blog entry I’ve ever written (it’s been seen by about 100,000 people). Below are some new pictures that I didn’t post last year.

Kawasaki Halloween Parade Pics 2007

November 1, 2007

Here are some snaps of last Sunday’s Halloween Parade in Kawasaki city, courtesy of my mate Frank. It’s an annual event which attracts all manner of marauding misfits and weirdos. The prosthetic make-up and costumes on some of the paraders were so impressive, they looked like they’d been given a makeover by Stan Winston. I also went to the “70s and 80s Dancing Party” in Kawasaki, which involved Darth Vader para-para dancing to Boogie Wonderland by Earth Wind and Fire, which was quite a spectacle.

Halloween in Japan

October 26, 2007

In Japan, Halloween seems to get bigger and more visible each year. Maybe it’s due to all those Akihabara cos-play freaks, happy for a new excuse to dress up. Or perhaps it’s thanks to the growing hordes of “Gothic Lolita” girls and Visual-Kei fans, with their celebration of all things macabre and nocturnal. I suspect the party decoration manufacturers, costume-designers and makers of plastic skeletons have something to do with it, since the shops are all festooned-with tacky Halloween-related merchandise.

Of course, it’s the sugar-coated family version of Halloween that seems to be taking the nation by storm, all smiling pumpkins and Casper the Friendly Ghost. Most of the young Japanese folks I know are too sweet-natured to enjoy horror films, and would have to be treated for post-traumatic stress disorder if they were to watch a movie featuring a hideously disfigured psychopath wielding a blood-dripping chainsaw. But, then again, somebody must be renting those DVDs of Saw and Hostel that line the shelves in my local video shop.

Halloween even threatens to overtake traditional, homegrown festivals of fear, like Setsubun, (when children pelt soy beans at a member of their family wearing a devil mask), or the the Namahage festival, (which takes place in Akita prefecture and involves an adult in a terrifying monster mask visiting the houses of local families and scaring the piss out of small children until they cry.)

Yep, Halloween is definitely becoming a big deal in Japan, so here are a few ideas on how to celebrate the day in style.

To warm up, you could watch some classic Japanese horror movies. The unsettling atmospherics of Ring or Juon are suitably scary for the occasion. However, for many foreigners in Japan the frightening occurrences in these films are part of everyday life- spooky staring kids, indecipherable phone calls, and late night encounters with long-haired ladies. Guffaw, guffaw!
My favourite J-horror is Wild Zero, a super-charged, rock n’ roll zombie flick, in which the sunglasses-wearing rockabilly punk band, Guitar Wolf, have to protect Japan from rampaging zombies.

The film features UFOs, a transsexual damsel in distress, and a naked woman shooting zombies with a gun.
Enough said.

Alternatively, if you want to paint the town blood-red, you could hit one of Tokyo’s eerie eateries, such as the Vampire Cafe, a shrine to bloodsuckers, with crucifixes and coffins for decorations, or Alkatraz ER, a bizarre, prison-hospital-themed izakaya, where you can drink from test tubes, and your “cell” is periodically invaded by an escaped maniac in an ice-hockey mask. In Yokohama you can knock back novelty cocktails like “Dr Jekyll’s Potion” at the Frankenstein-themed 3 Bozu Cafe, or you could even go to a creepy bar named Halloween which celebrates the festival all year round.
On sunday afternoon, I recommend joining the cabal of costumed loonies at Kawasaki’s demented Halloween parade, which I wrote about here. The after party in Club Citta is mental- don’t miss the opportunity to witness such surreal spectacles as Pikachu dancing with Michael Myers.

This is also a fun time of year to visit an amusement park. While crowds of epic proportions flock to Tokyo Disneyland to see the Halloween parade, truly daring folk might like to try the Haunted House at Fuji Q Highland. I’ve heard it’s horrifying and lasts 40 minutes, during which you have to navigate your way through darkened passageways, while costumed actors leap out at you, screaming (although, in typical Japanese fashion, they bow and apologize afterwards. “Sumimasen, sumimasen.”) However, that sounds like a walk in the park to me, compared with Fuji Q’s trauma-inducingly fast and steep rollercoasters, which are sure to turn your shit white, and induce nightmares in even the hardiest of souls.
If you’re particularly fearless, maybe you could host your own illegal Halloween rave in this spine-chillingly scary disused fun park in Tohoku.

Finally, you might like to indulge in the innocent Japanese past-time of curling up with a creepy comic book. I recommend Uzumaki, a nightmarish and trippy horror fantasy, or Hell Baby, about a deformed, demonic, killer infant.

Personally, I think it would be fun to do all of the above, while under the influence of hallucinogenic drugs. That would be quite a story. On the down side, you’d subsequently be mentally unhinged and have sparks flying out of your head for the rest of your natural life.