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.