No Face

No-Face comes to Toyama-Ken

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Halloween in Japan

In Japan Halloween isn’t really a holiday or celebrated the way it is in North America. But, there’s a general awareness of the event with all the merchandise and marketing that happens in the season. Walking into a grocery or convenience store you’ll find Halloween Candy and Halloween flavoured versions of typical snacks and sweets. Trick-or-treating happens on occasion, but only when it’s specifically organized by an individual or group providing the experience for kids. I went to two trick-or-treating events, one organized by an English teacher for her young students and the other organized by city hall in my town.

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Halloween is really fun to teach in school. For some of my classes I told a scary Japanese story in English, “Kuchisake-Onna”. It’s about a split-mouth woman who wears a surgical mask and goes around asking people if they think she is beautiful and then cutting them with scissors. Because face masks are pretty commonplace here, I wore one to class and told the story, ripping it off partway through the story to reveal I had drawn a split mouth on my face in red. It went over pretty well but the comments I got were “very cute!”… when really I wanted them to gasp in terror.

Throughout the year, many students have said “Trick-or-Treat” to me at various times, trying their luck to see if I would give them candy. It always took me by surprise but I can’t be surprised that if you’ve learned saying a certain sentence results in free candy… you’re going to use it. I showed some of my students a clip from “It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown”. (On a related note, the comic series is called “Snoopy” in Japan). I was surprised how funny they found it. It must be a classic for a reason.

On the actual day of Halloween I wore a No Face (Kaonashi) from Studio Ghibli’s Spirited Away. I was excited to be a recognizable character but I greatly underestimated the reaction I would receive. At the Trick or Treating event I heard people calling out “KAONASHI!!” as I walked by and caused some little kids cry when they’re parents tried to force them to shake my hand. Later in the night I wore the costume on the train. The train conductor who patrols the cars came over to us and I thought maybe he would ask me to take off the costume, but instead he said “Please say Trick-or-Treat” and when we did he gave us train stickers and candy.

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Me on a Toyama train