Last Halloween I showed up at a nightclub in Shibuya wearing a pair of fangs and a sexy dress and expected to get the costume discount. The doorman laughed in my face.
The Japanese don’t mess around when it comes to costumes. Last year, the ghouls in Shibuya stepped up their game and I saw some pretty incredible outfits and makeup — one girl looked as if her face had been ripped off (I might have had nightmares from that one). In the land that created cosplay (dressing up as your favorite anime or manga character), cutting two holes in a sheet and saying you’re a ghost isn’t going to cut it.
Having said that, it isn’t hard to win at Halloween in Japan. First thing I’d suggest is give yourself some time to think about who — or what — you want to be. One trend that kept coming up last year was groups of friends who dress alike or according to one theme. I saw the bloody nurses of the “Silent Hill” game series, Disney princesses and small hordes of salaryman zombies. So if your friends are up for it, go out together, you’re more likely to get noticed.
Once you’ve decided on an outfit then it’s time to make the costume. If you want to rent a costume there are a few rental shops available online, including Big Kids and Tokyo Isho. The products can be pricey and come with detailed rental agreements, but both places mail anywhere in the country. Shopping site DMM also rents out costumes, but head to your local 100 yen shop to see what’s on offer first. There could be enough material to build your own outfit.
When it comes to costumes, though, you’re more than likely to end up at Don Quixote. Donki, as it’s known in Japanese slang, has stores across the country and sells costumes all year round. The branch in Akihabara is fantastic, with everything from fake blood to prop chain saws, but then again that tech-filled neighborhood is cosplay central. A few of the other great cosplay shops in Akihabara include Cospa Gee, ACOS and Mitsubado.
Tokyu Hands and Loft are also good for makeup, material and accessories, so they’re great to check out. Buying a costume can cost between ¥3,000 to ¥10,000, so imagination might be the key to preventing the real scare when you get your credit card bill.
Another tip is to search for makeup and hair tutorials on YouTube. A lot of these artists are industry professionals and get commercial sponsors for their videos. YouTubers Bonnie Corban SFX, MadeYewLook and Dope2111 are worth checking out even if you’re not planning on doing anything for Halloween, they might actually inspire you.
With the costume ready and your makeup tutorial cued up, you should be set to hit the town. While Shibuya and Roppongi in Tokyo, and America-mura in Osaka have been getting more into Halloween lately, remember that the night is still largely not celebrated in most of the country. Don’t be surprised if you get some stares — maybe even some screams.