While Americans are carving pumpkins and buying candy for trick-or-treaters, the Japanese are preparing for Halloween a little differently. Horror-lovers are paying to get chased by pirate- and clown-zombies in Osaka. And folks over in Tokyo‘s Shibuya Crossing are prepping for a celebration akin to New Year’s Eve in Times Square, only with bloody nurses and Power Rangers. The country truly goes all out for the holiday—but that wasn’t always the case. Just 25 years ago, Japanese Halloween celebrations were mysterious, borderline illegal, and could only be found in one very unexpected place: the subway.
It was the late 1980s, and the closest thing to Halloween in Japan was a spooky season of festivals honoring the dead during August. No one celebrated the candy- and costumed-filled holiday in October except for foreigners living in the country, who suffered from a lack of themed bar nights and parties to go to. So a group of young expats took matters into their own hands, which essentially consisted of them taking over Tokyo’s subway for an hour around Halloween. The strange, boozy, underground costume party soon became known as the “Yamanote Halloween Train” and gained notoriety by the early ’90s as the most disorderly Halloween bash around. The organizers were always unknown.
The event was anything but consistent, but the basic idea was for attendees to board the Yamanote Line and ride its entire loop around the edge of Tokyo (about one hour), hopping from car to car between each of the 29 stops. Judging from videos of the 1994 ride, it seemed to be a mix between NYC’s Santa Con and a nightclub Stefan would pitch on SNL’s Weekend Update. (It. Has. Everything.) People dressed as ’90s TV characters cram onto subway cars with open containers of booze, spray each other with silly string, and crawl up onto the train’s luggage racks. Partiers shout the station names as the train makes each stop, which is the only discernible sound punctuating the steady stream of cheers.
Not all the local commuters took kindly to the disruptive spectacle. And things only grew rowdier with each annual ride, reaching levels of near-unmanageability by the early 2000s.
Here’s some videos from those early days:
Sadly, it appears the festivities became overrun by douche-bags and turned into a really ugly party by foreigners. It has gone through years where there were angry responses by locals – which I think was well deserved after watching footage of what seems to be now just an annoying, drunken bro-fest on commuter trains of people just trying to get home. So, again, maybe it’s time to read up on ‘How to not be an ugly traveler‘ tips.
It now appears that the train parties have been replaced with massive street parties in Shibuya. However, sadly, it also turns into quite a trash-fest. But in true Japanese style, volunteers are the ones who come to clean up the mess.
I recently took a trip to the Steens Mountains and Alvord Desert in the extreme southeast corner Oregon for a week. On my way, I took a little side trip and stopped by Brownsville, OR. The reason I stopped? Major scenes of the movie Stand By Me were filmed there.
Despite the movie being 31 years old, this movie is an icon of my childhood. It hearkened me back to a time when I wasn’t absorbed in digital entertainment and still had adventures in real life with real friends with real tree forts and camping adventures.
The city still has a majority of the locations easily spotted right on the main drag. The town is very tiny – only 1 or 2 main streets really and a central core that’s about 1000 feet square. Spotting all the sites can be done in just a small 20 minute stroll. Seeing all the sites in town can easily be done in a couple of hours (depending on how long you want to stroll around).
Here’s a really good guide if you’re planning on making a trip.
It’s Fall – my favorite season. Which means Halloween is just around the corner.
I’m heading to Europe here for a business trip that will take me through Paris. While looking into things to do, I found out about this theater. It was located in the Pigalle area of Paris (20 bis, rue Chaptal). From its opening in 1897 until its closing in 1962, and specialized in naturalistic horror shows. Its had live staged graphic, amoral horror entertainment, a genre popular from Elizabethan and Jacobean theater (other examples include Shakespeare’s Titus Andronicus, and Webster’s The Duchess of Malfi and The White Devil). Today, we might call them splatter films. While it was always staged horror, the “special effects” would sometimes be too realistic and it was reported audience member would faint or vomit during performances. It was said the ‘success’ of the show was rated by how many people fainted.
It didn’t help that the building was an old chapel. The Gothic interior added to the ambiance. Here were some of the plays for example:
Le Laboratoire des Hallucinations, by André de Lorde: When a doctor finds his wife’s lover in his operating room, he performs a graphic brain surgery, rendering the adulterer a hallucinating semi-zombie. Now insane, the lover/patient hammers a chisel into the doctor’s brain
Un Crime dans une Maison de Fous, by André de Lorde: Two hags in an insane asylum use scissors to blind a pretty, young fellow inmate out of jealousy
L’Horrible Passion, by André de Lorde: A nanny strangles the children in her care
Le Baiser dans la Nuit, by Maurice Level: A young woman visits the man whose face she horribly disfigured with acid, where he obtains his revenge
It’s interesting that it waned in the years following World War II then closed in 1962. Management attributed the closure in part to the fact that the theater’s faux horrors had been eclipsed by the actual events of WW II two decades earlier. Apparently people had their fill of realistic horrors.
I’ve mentioned this phenomenon before – but the BBC did a small documentary on it.
Hundreds of thousands of young men are turning their backs entirely on society and real life. They are choosing instead to lock themselves away, usually in their bedrooms, for years. They literally enter their rooms and refuse to leave. The phenomenon is called hikikomori in Japanese and it literally means ‘to withdraw from society’.
Most of the sufferers of this condition live in the suburbs that surround Japan’s major cities. Recent surveys show that the majority are male and usually the first-born child. There are many stories of young men who give up on society. Some seem to be unable to handle academic or job pressure, others simply got fed up of people and still others do it out of fear of not being good enough and anxiety about their future.
Japanese teens are growing up under an overwhelming amount of technology, which seems to have replaced the inherent human experience, making teens handicapped when it comes to communicating honestly and openly with other people.
After a few years, some hikikomori victims recover enough to re-enter society. Another young man who spent three years as a recluse is now a counselor working with a support group for parents. In Japan it takes parents up to four years of not seeing their child before they seek outside help.
TheFlightDeal – Best site for getting the current super deals from your home city.
Kiwi.com – not sure where you want to go? Check out a live map of cheap fares from anywhere to anywhere.
Hitlistapp.com – If you’re destination- and/or date-agnostic and just want a great deal, use this. Works especially well on short notice.
Skyscanner.net – If you’re not set on your destination, use the “everywhere” destination search to search … everywhere.
Seatguru.com – Indispensable for previewing the indignities of your chosen seat on any specific flight.
Loungebuddy – Review, preview and purchase access to lounges at airports here and abroad — both members-only and those offering walk-up entry.
Airgrub – Pay by app, then pick up your meal on the way to the gate — it’ll even apply discounts for alliance members where applicable.
Mobile Passport – Skip the largely unliked MyTSA app and install this instead — it’ll get you through immigration a lot faster, as long as the airport you arrive at (there are 21) has a separate line handling Mobile Passport folks.
GateGuru – From delay notifications to gate-proximate directions to the closest Starbucks, this aims to streamline your journey from airport entry to jetway.
Airbnb: Experiences – The room-booking behemoth’s next big play: Use it to plan outings and activities.
Spotted by Locals – Travel guide apps are a dime a dozen, but a commitment to locals’ perspective guarantees a unique mix of picks.
Party With a Local – Like meetup.com except only for parties. It might be the fastest way to connect with locals looking to mingle.
Google Translate – Little known fact: Everybody’s favorite desktop translator offers downloadable packs in 52 languages, from Afrikaans to Welsh
Citymapper – The indispensable tool for navigating a city and public transport — use it once and you’ll forget Google Maps ever existed.
Google Trips – An easy, intuitive way to get recs for nearby restaurants and attractions — plus it’ll organize all your travel details in one place.
Hotspot Shield – Free VPN – can help you watch shows overseas as in your own geo.
WhatsApp – There are dozens of ways to connect with friends and locals, but this might be the most popular and most convenient — call home over a wifi connection and you might be surprised at the (high) quality of the reception.
Twitter account to follow for blooper fares and flash sales