Japan knows its way around a spine-tingling ghost story, but it always seems to let down Halloween fanatics from abroad.
You know, the ones who die for costumes, fake blood, mini candy bars, ghost stories and haunted houses.
Well, uh, you might be disappointed by Japan’s Halloween.
That’s because Halloween is a relatively new arrival, so it hasn’t taken off quite yet.
But don’t let that spook you from learning Halloween-related Japanese!
Halloween being an import means that the terms are rooted in words you probably already know, and it’s a prime topic for conversation as you’ll be able to educate and share about Western culture. Besides, what could be more fun than a party or a Japanese scary movie watching session—one where you’ll learn about Japanese terms that relate to Halloween!
Japanese Halloween Culture
Halloween (ハロウィーン・ハロウィン/はろうぃーん・はろうぃん) is a Western influence, but it’s beginning to take hold in Japan as a fun event and many Western traditions are gaining traction. It hasn’t reached the frenzied status that it has in North America—you won’t see homes and apartments dressed up to appear like haunted houses, or hordes of children knocking on neighbors’ doors to Trick-or-Treat.
However, companies are beginning to get on board with Halloween-inspired merchandise (ハロウィーングッズ/はろうぃーん ぐっず), Halloween events at theme parks, and parades (パレード/ぱれーど). The concept of Jack-o-Lanterns/carving contests, and Trick-or-Treat as events have also popped up. So if you go to the right places, you can see some of the events traditionally associated with Halloween in Japan. Or, with some live events being broadcast on TV, you may be able to catch a TV special event.
Costumes (コスチューム/こすちゅーむ) are a natural extension of Cosplay (コスプレ/こすぷれ), so in metropolitan cities—think Tokyo—adults will dress up. Having a Halloween-inspired party with school or work peers/friends is also becoming more common. And many of these elements are grouped as part of autumn events (秋のイベント/あきの いべんと) to make festivities last longer in Japan.
7 Scary-good Study Schemes
Keeping the differences of Western Halloween and Japanese Halloween in mind, you can still have some spooky fun, whether you just want to practice phrases that have a Halloween theme, or if you want to explore the cinematic achievements in horror! Here are some creative and time-tested ideas for celebrating this Halloween in Japanese:
- Host a Halloween party entirely in Japanese—from the invitations to the text on the cookies. If you’re answering the door to Trick-or-Treaters in Japanese that will definitely put them on edge!
- Write a ghost story in Japanese, or translate an English ghost story into Japanese.
- Carve pumpkins into anime or Japanese characters and then introduce your Jack-o-Lantern in Japanese.
- Play a Halloween version of Pictionary where guesses can only be made in Japanese. Add in a rule that using English words means a loss of a point.
- Visit a haunted house then describe what you saw in Japanese. No fair if you go through the haunted house looking at your feet or with your eyes closed!
- Have a treasure hunt where the clues are written in Japanese.
- Watch some scary movies in Japanese. Memorize some lines to be used on random Trick-or-Treaters.
Spooktacular Japanese Words and Phrases for Talking About Halloween
You’re in luck: Since Halloween and its terms are rooted in Western culture, in Japanese they’re simply written in katakana. But remember, your audience may not have any clue about Halloween, so brush up on ways to describe these phrases, terms, and concepts:
はろうぃーんは、じゅうがつ さんじゅういちにち に おこなわれます。
Halloween occurs on October 31.
じゃっく・おー・らんたんは、くりぬいた かぼちゃのなかに らいと（ろうそく）をいれて つくったものです。
Jack-o-Lanterns are pumpkins that are carved with a light (candle) placed in them.
とりっく・おあ・とりーとで、こどもたちは かそうして いえいえをたずね、おかしをもらいます。
Trick-or-treat is when children dress up and go door to door for candy.
こどもたちが「とりっく・おあ・とりーと」/「いたずらか、おかしか」ときいて、もしおかしが もらえなかったら いたずらをします。
When children say “Trick-or-treat” they are asking for candy, and if they don’t get it, they will play a trick on you.
おとなは ぼうるのなかに おかしをいれて じゅんびし、とりっく・おあ・とりーとをする こどもたちに あたえます。
Adults prepare bowls of candy to hand out to children who Trick-or-treat.
The word used to scare children on Halloween is “Boo!”*
*“Boo!” is not a word that works in Japanese as a scary word since it’s the sound that pigs make. The word used to scare people in Japan is「わ！」Incidentally, it is also used when scaring people to stop them from hiccuping.
おとなとこどものための はろうぃーんぱーてぃーが いえで おこなわれます。
Some examples of costumes are: コスチューム・仮装の例は (こすちゅーむ/かそうの れいは)：
魔女・ウイザード (まじょ/ウィザード) — Witch/Wizard
バンパイア・吸血鬼 (ばんぱいあ・きゅうけつき) — Vampire
ミイラ (みいら) — Mummy
ゾンビ (ぞんび) — Zombie
ゴースト・幽霊 (ごーすと・ゆうれい) — Ghost
コウモリ (こうもり) — Bat
デビル・悪魔 (でびる・あくま) — Devil
黒猫 (くろねこ) — Black Cat
海賊 (かいぞく) — Pirate
ナース・看護師 (なーす・かんごし) — Nurse
*ピエロ (ぴえろ) — Clown
*You may need to explain why clowns are creepy, 気味悪い (きみわるい).
While Japan may not yet have embraced all the North American Halloween traditions, they certainly have their own concepts for creepy crawlies and phrases to evoke fear. And anyone can be scared—a scream is pretty universal. Here are some ways to talk about things that go bump in the night:
Let’s go to a haunted House to be scared!:
かいだん/こわい おばけの はなしをしっていますか？
Do you know any scary ghost stories?:
Careful of those cobwebs (spider webs)!
なんの あにめ きゃらくたーの かそうをしますか？
What anime character would you dress up as?
あなたの こすちゅーむは なん/だれですか？
What/Who is your costume?:
Will you faint at the sight of blood?
That graveyard is spooky!
I was surprised!
I was startled!
What scares you?
Don’t scare me!
Head coverings/masks examples: 被り物/お面の例 (かぶりもの/おめんの れい):
虫 (むし) — Bug
フランケンシュタイン (ふらんけんしゅたいん) — Frankenstein
骸骨 (がいこつ) — Skeleton
狼男 (おおかみ おとこ) — Werewolf
モンスター (もんすたー) — Monster
Okay, just a few tidbits left. When you scream in English, it’s written out as “Ah!”, but in Japanese it’s「ギャー！(ぎゃー！)」or「キャー！(きゃー！)」
In Japanese the numbers 4 and 9 are considered unlucky. 4 has this meaning because its pronunciation is “し,” which is the same used for the word “death” (死). 9 has this because its pronunciation of “く” is the same word “agony” or “torture” (苦), also it has the same sound—“きゅう”—as someone being choked or a rope tightened. Repeating the sound for 9 twice also means “emergency” (救急/きゅうきゅう) .
Hopefully you won’t have any Halloween-related emergencies this year, and with the suggestions above you should be covered for talking about Halloween in Japanese. At the very least dress up, take a picture, and post it online with a caption in Japanese using some of the key words from above.
And if you’re too spooked to leave the couch, there’s always the option of watching scary movies. Disclaimer: You’re responsible if after watching these movies you’re too scared to get out from underneath that blanket…that will do nothing for you if ghosts attack!
Keep Practicing with 17 Scary Japanese Movies and Movie Series
Japan has its own fair share of scary stories and movies—some made in Japan, some imported and translated. Some are based on manga series. Curl up and watch some of these bloody, scary, death-related movies (映画/えいが) in Japanese. Or, if you can’t stand seeing the full movies, watch a clip or trailer online.
リングシリーズ (りんぐ しりーず) — “The Ring” Series
着信アリシリーズ (ちゃくしんあり しりーず) — “One Missed Call” Series
呪怨シリーズ (じゅおん しりーず) — “The Grudge” Series
仄暗い水の底から (ほのぐらい みずの そこから) — “Dark Water”
感染 (かんせん) — “Infection”
輪廻 (りんね) — “Reincarnation”
富江 (とみえ) — “Tomie”
死国 (しこく) — “Death Country”
稲川淳二シリーズ (いながわ じゅんじ しりーず) — “Inagawa Junji” Series
黒い家 (くろい いえ) — “Black House”
オールド・ボーイ (おーるど・ぼーい) — “Oldboy”
予言 (よげん) — “Premonition”
ハロウィーン (はろうぃーん) — “Halloween”
１３日の金曜日 (じゅうさんにちの きんようび) — “Friday the 13th“
サイコ (さいこ) — “Psycho”
バトル・ロワイヤル (ばとる・ろわいやる) — “Battle Royale”
おくりびと — “Departures”
Won’t give the plotlines away for the movies up above, since there are synopsis’ available. If these movies aren’t enough, here are some descriptive terms you’ll need if you want to do your own search:
ホラー (ほらー) — Horror
ゴア/流血 (ごあ/りゅうけつ) — Gore
サスペンス (さすぺんす) — Suspense
ブギーマン (ぶぎーまん) — Boogeyman
精神病質者 (せいしんびょうしつしゃ) — Psychopath
サイコスリラー (さいこすりらー) — Psychological Thriller
Enjoy the Japanese Halloween fun by seeing if you can be scared by Japanese movies. But make sure this Halloween doesn’t leave you too spooked to learn and practice.
If you’re tempted to slack off, beware: I’ve heard a legend of a Japanese student that didn’t study at all in the month of October, and slowly their mind melted until they couldn’t learn anything…and they became a faceless zombie.
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