CAMP ZAMA, Japan – Thousands of costumed revelers, many of them Japanese visitors, celebrated Halloween by going door-to-door in the neighborhoods here and at Sagamihara Family Housing Area in search of hopefully more treats than tricks.
The festivities began at 6 p.m. on Tuesday, just as evening fell, and continued for two hours. Many housing residents decked out their yards, doorways and windows with all manner of lights, decorations, props, fog machines and piped-in music and sound effects to heighten the spooky atmosphere.
Clusters of families and friend groups — some American, some Japanese, and some a combination of both — walked up eagerly to the houses handing out candy. Though the host-nation visitors conversed largely in their native language, even the youngest among them were able to let out the familiar plea of “Trick or treat!” when greeted at the door.
The traditional American way of celebrating Halloween has gradually grown in popularity in Japan in the last two decades. Data from the Directorate of Emergency Services showed a 28% increase in guest passes issued, an 18% increase in vehicle traffic, and a 23% increase in pedestrian traffic for this year’s holiday compared to 2022.
Sanae Taniguchi thinks it is wonderful that the U.S. Army community welcomes Japanese visitors for trick-or-treating and said she and her family look forward to it every year.
“It’s a great opportunity — not only for children, but also for adults — to experience a part of American culture, and I hope it continues into the future,” Taniguchi said. “I’d like more Japanese to be able to experience Halloween and enjoy it with their children.”
Taniguchi’s daughter, Rio, 12, estimated that she’s come to SFHA for Halloween four or five times since she was a young child, and was joined this year by a few of her friends.
“I am dressed up as a cat today because I thought it was very Halloween-like and cute,” Rio said. “I enjoyed receiving a lot of candies and looking at the houses that were decorated.”
Keiko Kanematsu and her two daughters, who came at the invitation of a friend, were first-time visitors at SFHA for Halloween this year. They were all excited to participate, and the experience exceeded their expectations, she said.
“I was impressed with the way the houses were decorated and by the number of people who were in costumes,” Kanematsu said. “It was very nice to have an opportunity to interact with Americans and to share in a good time with them.”
Kanematsu’s 8-year-old daughter, Yui, came dressed as Elsa from the animated film “Frozen” and said she had a great time during her first trick-or-treating experience.
“I got a lot of candy and had so much fun,” Yui said. “I want to come here again in the future.”
Robert Brown, assigned to U.S. Army Japan G3, brought his family from their off-base residence onto Camp Zama for the festivities. Opening U.S. Army installations to Japanese visitors for events like Halloween helps to strengthen the relationship between both, he said.
“I think giving the Japanese the opportunity to experience American cultural events is important for them,” Brown said, “and [the fact that] they embrace American culture and allow us to share it with them is an awesome experience.”
Brown’s son, Rey, dressed in an inflatable T. rex costume, echoed his dad’s sentiment.
“I think it’s a good idea to show our American culture to the Japanese [visitors],” said Rey, 12. “It’s nice to be able to feel like we’re celebrating Halloween in America.”