Halloween has only been recently celebrated in Japan, but even now the majority of its presence is in pure marketing. This isn’t anything new for consumer heavy cultures that also exist in the West, but as with just about everything else they do, Japan has to take it to the next level. And beyond.
There are a number of chain restaurants that have crossed the Pacific to the Land of the Rising Sun. But for every Starbucks there is also a handful of near identical Japanese chains such as Doutor and Ueshima, just to name a couple. All of which have a Halloween and/or fall themed round of drinks but strangely less overt than their Western neighbors.
During the autumn season in Japan, several themes once again make the rounds. Fall staples such as sweet potatoes (the purple variety is the most popular), chestnuts, grapes, and of course pumpkin, which may be due to the West’s proclivity. These have been fall tradition before the Halloween craze hit Japan but now they simply have adorable Halloween packaging. In fact, it is incredibly hard to find large orange pumpkins like one would in the West, but that doesn’t stop their image from adorning nearly every Halloween merchandise.
Although just because something has lovely Halloween designs on it, doesn’t mean there’s anything fall or Halloween about it. For instance, yogurt, pizza, mini hotdogs, and really just about every mundane grocery item. Pumpkins and ghosts are slapped on the outside, but it’s still plain strawberry or cheese. But to those who enjoy surrounding themselves with Halloween revelry, this can be a great way to combine regular grocery shopping with festive goodness.
Some companies take an extra step in their Halloween inclusion, though the end result can be underwhelming. For instance, the company who makes Tongari Corn (which, let’s be real, are pretty much just Bugles) used clever branding and encouraged the
Bugles Tongari Corn to be painted with icing, sugar, and strawberry jam to make witch fingernails, and the box the snacks come in can be turned into a jack-o-lantern bag if you cover it in orange paper and design it as such. Though, what child hasn’t gotten them in their lunch box and pretended they were witch fingers.
— ハウス食品グループ (@housefoods_now) October 18, 2018
Western Food Chains
Starbucks Japan doesn’t have the famed Pumpkin Spice Latte (PSL) but instead an SPL, a sweet pumpkin latte. There also isn’t the recently viral Witch’s Brew frappuccino but there is the dichotomy of a Princess frappe and a Witch frappe. Choose one to match your personal aesthetic, or both if you’re feeling festive. There are also matching donuts. If that isn’t enough to sate you, there are a handful of Halloween themed foods too, such as a black quiche. Yum!
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The wide range of Kit Kats available in Japan is pretty well known and of course there is a special flavor just for Halloween. Each package has different characters and little word bubbles with phrases like “Awesome!” and “I like!” Although this looks like it’s meant to be handed out to trick or treaters, all flavored Kit Kats in Japan are sold like this. Trick or treat hasn’t taken off in Japan yet.
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American chain Baskin Robbins also offers quite a few Halloween goodies. Each month Baskin Robbins has a new and unique and October’s flavor in Japan is Midnight Apple! Apple is a popular flavor for Halloween.
In addition to Midnight Apple, there is also Pumpkin Pie and Witch’s Trick. You can’t have fall without pumpkins and that’s certainly become the trend in Japan as well. In accordance with other traditional fall flavors, there’s also mont blanc (which is a chestnut flavor), caramel, and grape! Yes, Japan has mastered the supposedly impossible grape ice cream and it is divine.
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In the past, McDonald’s had festive foods, such as a black burger and orange and black chocolate icing to coat french fries. Japan likes to flavor fries and McDonald’s especially routinely has limited time seasonings. McDonald’s avoided Halloween this year and instead focused on autumn trends like purple sweet potato. However, Happy Meals are never exempt from capitalizing on holidays.
The Halloween festoonery also exists in places you wouldn’t quite expect, like sushi go-around. Sushi is probably the last thing you’d associate with Halloween, but that didn’t stop Japan from exploiting the commercialism. During October you can enjoy chirashi in a festive jack-o-lantern bowl.
Japan’s food industry heavily revolves around the different seasons. Usually with an explosion of whatever food is in season, such as strawberries in the spring. As soon as the 31st is over, eateries will revert back to simple cozy fall foods and leave the ghosts behind.