Off the Beaten Path: Yokai Street and Halloween in Japan

In the past three or four years, it has been almost impossible to not notice Halloween making a rapid transition in Japan from “not really a thing at all” to “very much a thing,” though in practice it’s hard to say how much of the modern traditions of, say, American Halloween have been adopted.1

That old traditional favorite, blood glasses

What is most interesting about Halloween in Japan, arguably, is not the fact that Japan has more than its own share of ghost stories and other eeriness, but the fact that so little of it seems to wind up overlapping with Halloween — summer is the season of ghost stories in Japan, or at least that seems to be the stereotype.

In their defense, these ghost breads are positively adorable.

In Kyoto, however, there is a little shopping street, only about 400 meters long, that has benefited perhaps more than most from Japan’s newfound interest in autumnal spookiness. Drawing on local folklore from a thousand years ago,2 this little street rebranded itself as “Yokai Street,” named after the yokai monsters from Japanese folklore, in the hopes of drawing visitors to stir up business and revitalize the local shops. One of the main signs you’ll see of this is little figures of traditional creatures from folklore out front of the shops, often made from whatever the shop sells, or sometimes just folklore-based variants on common things like the “watch for children” sign.

Watch for cyclops children at play

CURRENT MOOD:

The local temple also holds semi-regular Mononoke-ichi art and craft markets, where visitors can buy coasters, sculptures, socks, art books, and more, all of it with a monsters-from-Japanese-folklore theme, or at least, say, eyeballs or white foxes. Depending on the season, you might also be able to get yourself a special bowl of shaved ice.

Current tally: 2 sad, 1 happy

One of the biggest events for this street, though, is a revival every several months of an old tradition based on the same legend: the Hyakki-yakō, or, essentially, “night of a hundred monsters.”3 As night falls, people crowd this street for a parade of monsters and ghouls, organized as a revival of the sorts of costumed parades once held in this part of Kyoto, many centuries ago.

Lanterns and fursuits!

Tengu guy wearing legitimate tall and narrow geta sandals! (not pictured

More foxes, or maybe cats? I am not good at animals.

Fox mask done in makeup, with cool weird contact lenses!

The “HAPPY HALLOWEEN” banners decorating the shops on the next street over last weekend may have been more conventionally Halloween-themed, but Yokai Street certainly felt much more in the spirit of the holiday. Perhaps that’s why they scheduled the parade for October.

For more information on Kyoto’s Hyakki-yakō and Mononoke-ichi events, check out their web site (in Japanese only). Their next event, as of this writing, is schedule for the second half of December: they’ll actually be visiting Tokyo to hold a Mononoke-ichi market there!


  1. Trick-or-Treating still seems decidedly exotic, but on the other hand, Halloween decorations can be seen popping up everywhere. The decorations have been generically “Christmas” or “Valentine’s Day” enough that it has led my wife and me to occasionally jokingly refer to them as “Merry Halloween” decorations. Lots of orange and black around, though, in any case. 
  2. During the Heian era (794–1185), at least in this part of Kyoto, it was said that old household tools and items thrown out while cleaning your home would hold grudges for being disposed of so coldly, so the tools decided to become monsters of various sorts to take their revenge on those who threw them out. As a result of this belief (or legend), there were nighttime parades held in this area centuries ago where people would dress up like these monsters. 
  3. Interestingly, this phrase is also used in a non-literal sense to refer to a state of utter chaos. 

Hello! I’m Greg, an American who has lived in Japan since 2008. I have a tremendous fondness for both reading and writing, which helps out quite a bit in my work as a translator: after all, at its core, the job is built on writing. I’ve always been fascinated with languages, and how they can differ in how they treat even seemingly basic, fundamental things. In particular, there are many common Japanese words that have no good English equivalent, so finding a good way to translate them can be a really interesting challenge.

 

My other hobbies include cooking (Serious Eats is one of my favorite websites, and I cook dinner from scratch nearly every evening), playing games with friends (both tabletop and video games), calligraphy (both English and Japanese, filling an A6 page with some sort of calligraphy practice every day for the past few years), photography, and a long-held interest in computers (as a teenager, I installed operating systems recreationally).

 

I also drink too much oolong tea.

髪型もキマっている。負けるわけがない。

こんちわっす。営業の宝島(ほうしま)です。

何十年かぶりに社会体育大会に参加しました。

家族に良いところ見せようと思ってパン食い競争に参加しました。いい歳の大人(わたし)が大衆の面前でなかなかパンを咥えられず中腰で口をパクパクさせる姿は公開処刑なのか。

※最近のパン食い競争は、食べ物を粗末に扱わないようにあんパンが袋に入ったままぶら下がっており、咥えにくくなっています。

しまいには係のおじさんに「手で取って行ってもいいよ」と言われる始末。

さて、メイン競技と言えば町会対抗リレー。我が町会のアンカーは、アスリート然とした体型のいかにも走りそうな男性。髪型もキマっている。負けるわけがない。

他の選手も足の速い人が集まっている。午前中の予選は余裕で通過して、大会フィナーレの決勝では2位に半周も差をつけて優勝したのには驚きました。

もっと驚いたのは、「あんなハリネズミみたいに走る人ばっかりやったら、そりゃ勝てるわ」と嫁が言ったことです。

速く走ることを「ハリネズミのように走る」と形容するとは。

たとえ方のクセがすごいんじゃ!

 

 

パンダ

子パンダの名前がシャンシャン(香香)に決まり、世間はちょっとしたパンダブームです。

そこで、パンダについて少しだけ調べてみたのでご紹介します!

・第6の指を持っている

・竹を何時間もひたすら食べ続ける
—>どれだけ食べても4500 kcal ぐらいしか取れない

・このため、あまり動かないことによってカロリー消費をセーブしている
—>いつもゴロゴロ

・木登りは好きだが、まれに降りられなくなる

・クマ科とは思えない人なつっこさ

引用元>
http://www.panda-kan.com/
http://www.ueno-panda.jp/