As the Halloween season approaches in Japan, cities transform: Shopping malls play eerie tunes over speakers while people shop. Soft drinks and confectionery makers update their packaging to reflect the Halloween spirit. Theme parks advertise Halloween-themed events to entice customers. As a country with a widely recognized reputation for adopting various western ideas and cultural celebrations, Halloween is a perfect example of this. And one of the best ways to experience Halloween in Japan is by attending the Kawasaki City Halloween Parade in late October.
Note: Due to COVID-19 concerns, the 2020 Kawasaki Halloween Parade will be held as an online event. Please check the official website for the most up-to-date information.
What is Halloween Like In Japan?
Historically, Shibuya in Tokyo was the central meeting point for Japan’s Halloween celebrations. In 2019, the Shibuya Ward requested self-restraint for the event’s participants due to an increase in the alcohol-driven antisocial behaviour in previous years. While the Shibuya event remains, the Kawasaki Halloween Parade’s family-friendly focus is a popular alternative to celebrate the day.
As a lover of all things horror, I was excited to visit this parade for the first time in 2019 and to see some of my favourite horror-inspired characters in action.
A Huge Halloween Event Near Tokyo
I arrived at the Kawasaki train station to see a full display of decorations akin to that you might see during the Christmas season. The black, orange and green colour scheme adorned the station ceiling and every shop and cafe in the vicinity. The first attraction outside the station was a parked bus decorated to the nines with Halloween paraphernalia and a Halloween-themed tree. It was here that I met my first character, No-Face, from the studio Ghibli movie, Spirited Away. After leaving the bus with my gift of Hello Kitty stickers (Halloween-themed, of course!) and souvenir photo, I made my way to the parade route.
The Kawasaki Halloween Parade takes a 1.5km route through the city on the last Sunday of October. Less than a 10-minute walk from the Kawasaki train station near the La Citadella shopping centre, the free event attracts around 120,000 spectators to observe the 2,000 participants who walk in the parade.
If you want to participate, a 1,000 JPY fee and application form are required to join. For those with the time, resources and imagination, there is a 500,000 JPY prize for best costume, so entry is worth it for those inspired to do so.
I made it just in time for the start of the parade at 14:30, and to see the first float as it made its way down the street. Japanese party music blared from speakers to set the parade’s atmosphere – fun, frantic, cheerful, and uniquely Japanese.
What Kind of Costumes Do People Wear?
The first group of costumed participants to appear was a range of Disney characters brought to life. Woody and Buzz from Toy Story danced their way down the street alongside every Disney Princess imaginable. As they walked by, I was amazed by the meticulous detail and creativity that went into each costume. Every article of clothing was considered, from the pin in their hair down to the shoes on their feet. However, I was here to see some horror-inspired outfits. So, I was more than excited when the following group included all of my favourite horror icons!
Every horror genre and movie I knew of danced their way past the crowds. The level of detail was impeccable and would not have looked out of place on a Hollywood film set. Despite the somewhat-gruesome nature of the outfits, the parade still managed to maintain a family-friendly atmosphere. I heard shouts from the children, “Ka-wa-i-i” (cute in Japanese), as they watched the characters pass by.
Alongside the popular horror-themed outfits, a diverse range of other characters appeared. Every anime character imaginable (some I recognized, some I didn’t) turned up to the event, as well as characters of Harry Potter, Doc from Back to the Future and Star Wars. A massive wave of nostalgia washed over me when a troop of Power Rangers danced by and handed out sweets to waving children. As the parade drew to a close at around 16:00, I headed off to explore the nearby streets.
Halloween Festivities Continues on the Streets of Kawasaki
Even with the end of the Kawasaki parade, the party continued. The Best Costume awards occurred on a stage near the La Cittadella shopping mall, and I was able to sit and do some people watching. Across the way, there was a small, fenced-off arena with free admission for people to enjoy music and dancing, and there were several stands along the street to get your face painted. The highlight for me was watching the parade participants mill around the streets afterwards. Many stayed in character while happily obliging to have their picture taken with visitors of the parade, which made for an excellent photoshoot opportunity for me as well.
The ‘trick-or-treating’ tradition is not a custom practised in Japan, though they certainly have found a way to enjoy immense fun on this holiday. I left to head home around 22:00, buoyed with an enhanced love and admiration of Japan. The Kawasaki Halloween Parade is perhaps not a conventional way to celebrate this holiday, but it may become one of your most memorable.
How To Get to the Kawasaki Halloween Parade
The Halloween parade occurs near the La Citadella shopping centre, about an 8-minute walk from the Kawasaki train station (川崎駅). The station can be reached in under 20 minutes from Tokyo and Yokohama from each direction on the Tokaido (Ueno-Tokyo) line. Alternatively, Kawasaki station sits on the Nambu and Keihin-Tōhoku lines.
|Date:||Last Sunday of October|
|Hours:||14:30 – 16:00|
|Fee to Take Part in Parade:||1,000 JPY fee|