Happy Halloween from Asia's fashion capital
Quick bit of context: I'm in my first of three weeks in Japan today as part of a generous reporting opportunity from the International Center for Journalists. After conducting interviews this morning and afternoon, Times photographer Eve Edelheit and I set out to find Halloween in Tokyo.
When I told Junko, my Japanese translator, that I planned to check out whatever was happening in Tokyo for Halloween, she told me not to get too excited. Halloween "is not big here in Japan," she wrote by email a few weeks ago. The costume-loving country didn't embrace festive outfits and jack-o-lanterns like we do in America.
In years past, she's right. But even Junko says something changed this year. Halloween in Tokyo got huge, building all month and stretching into a weeklong celebration that was impossible to miss.
Storefronts in the Ginza shopping district feature creepy crawly kitsch next to haute couture, some piled on top of orange candy to your knees. Restaurants and Japanese bars (izakayas) list special spooky cocktails, like milk mixed with Jack Daniels Honey. A pharmacy in the subway played "This is Halloween" from Tim Burton's Nightmare Before Christmas as carts offered pumpkin-shaped goodies to commuters.
Those were just small sparks of spirit compared to the explosion of energy the night before Halloween at Shibuya Crossing, a famous traffic intersection that evokes Times Square and is swarming with people from all directions on a normal day. Thousands of Japanese youth converged on a nearby street in costumes, taking photos, having cigarettes and drinking on the street, which is legal if you're over 20.
There were few lone wolves. On this night, you needed to roll with a squad. We found groups of tomatoes, American Indian chiefs, Harry Potter witches, Chucky dolls and Teletubbies.
Some of the costumes were familiar, something you'd find at a house party in the States. Alice in Wonderland. Mickey Mouse ears. Nurses and maids. Minions and Waldos. Disney princesses. Zombie everything -- police officers, brides, schoolgirls.
Others were distinctly Japanese, mixing cute with quirk and cartoon influences. A leopard on roller skates who turned around to show me her tail. A group of young men in white tights and tutus, revealing a swan between their legs. Girls with technocolor hair and flouncy Harajuku babydoll dresses. A group of schoolkids dressed up as bright Tetris blocks.
Times photographer Eve Edelheit posted several images from the night on the All Eyes blog. I've attached a few of the fashion-centric ones in the slideshow, along with some prints from I took with her Instax Mini.
The craziest part: These pictures weren't even taken on Oct. 31. The busiest celebrations could still be to come.