Sunday, October 27, 2013

Halloween in Japan...

... didn't really exist until about five years ago, I have been told. But the holiday, as it is celebrated in America, is slowly infiltrating in to the culture here. Check out these photos (that are not mine) from Mister Doughnut and Daiso (Japanese dollar store):

With all of these treats, you would think that Halloween parties and decorations would be prevalent across the country. But no. No one decorates their home. No one dresses up. They certainly would not even think about knocking on all their neighbors doors all night to ask for candy. How rude! And, from what I understand, Japanese men and older boys would not be caught dead in a costume. The impression I get is that it is seen as undignified. Yet, these same men and boys have no problem with jogging in short pink running shorts and carrying murses (what I like to call purses carried by men) that match their outfits. Fascinating.

I learned about Halloween in Japan from talking with a couple of my Japanese friends this weekend, Kumie and Chie. Both of them, and their children, enjoy experiencing the American culture, much like my family is enjoying the experience of learning about the Japanese culture. And they have no idea who buys all the stuff in the Daiso, or why Hello Kitty pumpkin doughnuts are the thing to eat this month. "It's all commercial," Kumie said. Indeed. Marketing ploys expand across the globe, it appears. Kind of like Americans celebrating Cinco de Mayo with Dos Equis, margaritas and chips with salsa at their favorite Mexican joint. It's all in the marketing. Plus, I can always use a good excuse to enjoy a margarita (Side note: Mike's Tex Mex, the Mexican restaurant near base in Iwakuni, did not have any Cinco de Mayo festivities or specials. I was VERY disappointed when I made a point to eat there on May 5.)

My boys with Kumie's daughter Yuu at the base's Halloween Carnival.
My boys with Chie's son, Katsuma
Since Halloween is not a popular event in Japan, Kumie and Chie visit the MCAS Iwakuni each year so their kids can enjoy the phenomenon that is "trick-or-treating." And they are not alone.

Hundreds of Japanese nationals and their children visit our base Oct. 31. So many people come that that paperwork that sponsors (American families) have to turn in to base security for their guests (their Japanese friends) must be submitted at least two weeks in advance. Usually you fill out the paper work as you escort your guests on base, waiting about, mmm, 5 minutes. One of my friends said that at her house, she went through 11 bags of Halloween candy in about an hour and half. And because she lives in a midrise (apartment-type building) without a front porch light to tun off, people kept knocking anyway. That's a lot of people.

I was not here from the "Great Halloween Cultural Exchange" last year, having Space A'ed to the States for a visit. The spouse handled the crowds, the costumes and the trick-or-treating. This year, I'll be at my last fitness boot camp class until 7 p.m., so he may be having to manage Halloween logistics alone once again. And I was not able to sponsor on any of my Japanese friends, which was kind of disappointing, as well. Maybe next year. But for those of you who won't be able to see my kids in person the Halloween, here they are in their costumes:

My sons were inspired by the 1970s with their Halloween costumes this year. Will, my oldest, dreamed up a Disco Ninja... a ninja costume enhanced with a colorful afro, some glitter glue and stylish throwback sunglasses. I think if he could have found a way to incorporate a disco ball in to his outfit, he would have! 

Xan, on the other hand, had a hand-me-down costume of Will's from four yeas ago. Then, Will was really in to Elvis Presley and we had just visited Graceland. He fell in love with the patriotic eagle jumpsuit and had to have a replica made. Of course, his Grandma, my mom, is a talented seamstress, and was able to make a mini jumpsuit. My sister-in-law is an artist, and sketched the eagles on the suit, cape and pants, and then my mom stitched along the lines she drew in coordinating thread colors. I then spent three or four evenings gluing every sequin and jewel on to the costume. It was definitely a labor of love and Xan was very excited that he finally fit in to it. He was even willing to dye his hair when the black Elvis wig was too itchy. My husband added frosting on the cake when he found bright blue sneakers ... for blue suede shoes. You can see more photos of the boys' costumes on my Jessica Guthrie Photography website.

Happy Halloween! I hope you get plenty of your favorite candy this year... I still haven't had a taste of my favorite yet... candy corns!

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