Japan isn’t actually big on Halloween. But it is. But not. Sort of.
As far as I can tell they don’t really celebrate the holiday here in anything like the way people in the US do. There isn’t really much trick-or-treating (although that might be changing, if the frequent references I see on television to this time-honored pre-diabetes ritual are any indication) or any actual observance of the holiday. But there’s tons of stuff, decorations and promotional crap and especially sweets. Japanese people are crazy about candy and even more so about pastries. There are a billion (numbers approximate) bakeries all over the place, and most of them seem to have some sort of Halloween-themed offerings. The ubiquitous Mister Donut perhaps has the best examples (and great, stupid commercials), but other places also have pumpkins and ghosts and other symbols of the holiday in edible form.
So while Halloween isn’t the same, it’s definitely here. And while some people resent the commodification of the holiday, I can’t help but love it. Kitsch doesn’t devalue tradition, it’s just a different way of engaging with it. So I embrace the stupid commercial tie-ins, the Hello Kitty swag and the pumpkin donuts (also shaped like pumpkins) and all the other nonsense, as part of the larger Halloween experience.
This is why I was eager to try Pepsi’s Japan-only offering, Pepsi Ghost. I don’t normally drink soda, but I’m so Halloween-obsessed that I couldn’t resist. Alas, this time my willingness to be a corporate shill backfired, because as far as I could tell it was just the same old Pepsi in a cutesy (if satanic) bottle. All I got for my naiveté was a slight stomach ache and probably a cavity or two. Lesson learned.
Despite my unfortunate soda experience, I’ll continue sampling the Halloween junk that Japan dangles in front of my stupid gaijin face, because I don’t learn from my mistakes.
In other news, the book thing we did is now actually out, as far as I know, albeit in limited form. Supposedly The Folkloresque is on offer at the American Folklore Society’s annual meeting in Long Beach. If you’re not at the conference, it should be available on Amazon on November 1st. We talk about some pretty neat stuff in there, like comics, anime, video games, and of course folklore. Check it out, maybe enjoy a nice pumpkin donut and read a couple chapters. Because Halloween, as it stands today (certainly as it is here in Japan), is nothing if not folkloresque.
2 thoughts on “Halloween Meltdown ’15: Disappointing Soda, Monster Donuts and BOOK!!!”
I included a unit on urban legends when we covered culture in my middle school social studies class this year. The students were much more enthusiastic than they usually are. I’d love to check out your work (provided that it doesn’t cost an arm and a leg to get one in Canada.
That sounds like an awesome social studies class! The book should cost about the same up north as it does stateside, but I should tell you that it’s pretty dense–middle-schoolers might not dig it. Also, urban legends don’t really come up, except in passing.
I’ve done some research on Slender Man, though, and that’s out there for free: http://www.semioticreview.com/index.php/thematic-issues/issue-monsters/22-the-sort-of-story-that-has-you-covering-your-mirrors-the-case-of-slender-man. The article’s dense, too, but might give you some ideas.
I also taught Slendy in a college course, but it could easily be adapted to middle school. I even had the students play the Slender Man game in the classroom, up on the projector screen, and that was a blast. Let me know if you want to do a lesson plan or something like that– I have some Powerpoints I could dig up. We also did a public lecture on Slendy up in Newfoundland, and it was recorded and is available at MUN’s website: http://research.library.mun.ca/8417/. The talk is geared toward a general audience, so it could work for middle school (there were some middle school students in the audience).
On the flip side, there’s some controversy surrounding Slender Man due to the attempted murder of a middle-school girl by two of her friends last year, which they linked to Slendy. So approach with caution.
Lastly, there’s my pal Lynne McNeill’s groovy textbook, “Folklore Rules.” It’s fun and short and super inexpensive, and I think middle-school students could handle it: http://www.amazon.com/Folklore-Rules-Introduction-Academic-Studies/dp/0874219051/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1444915290&sr=8-1&keywords=folklore+rules.