Professor Emerita, Asian and Middle Eastern Studies, UNC Chapel Hill

Imagining a Maiko Halloween Party

What would a Halloween party for and by maiko look like?  Kyoto textile firm Eirakuya imagines just such an event.  Their bright orange tenugui (cloth hand-towel) titled, “The Maiko Girls’ Halloween” offers ghoulish fun. [Click on the link to see the full image and to see how it looks framed in a tokonoma].

Here, we see maiko mixing with ghosts, Dracula, and witches.  Eirakuya’s maiko costume for the party, too. One sports a witch’s wide black hat, another holds a spooky candelabra, and still another holds the devil’s pitchfork for herding innocents into its clutches. It’s funny to imagine these girlish paragons of Kyoto protocol mixing it up with these icons of the supernatural.

In today’s blog, we look at some ways Halloween has become part of Japanese popular culture. There’s fun, food, and costumes for all ages.

Sweet Japanese Halloween Treats

Halloween wagashi. 2021.

Japanese wagashi, sweet treats, dress up for Halloween, too.  The blog grape reports how these adorable candy ghouls have returned to convenience stores in 2021. Although cosplay figures more in Japanese Halloween celebrations than “trick or treat” these kawaii sweets would certainly fit a maiko Halloween party.

Halloween in Japanese Children’s Books


Delightful picture books introduce young children to the holiday. Halloween Hide and Seek (2016) by Ishikawa Kouji stimulates children’s imaginations. Hidden shapes appear when you turn the page. Ghosts, witches, and Jack O’Lanterns pop out. Who, Who? Halloween (2020) by Egashira Michiko features the little girl Fu-chan trying to guess the identity of each of her costumed friends. In the end, all join in a costume parade, followed by a party.

Halloween Revelry in Japanese Urban Spaces

Halloween Banana. Osaka 2015. Mr. Chura san. Wiki.

You can find Halloween revelers on Tokyo trains. They also take over  entertainment hubs like Tokyo’s Ikebukuro, Shibuya scramble crossing, and Osaka’s Shinsaibashi.  According to the Japan Rail Pass site, Tokyo Disneyland’s Halloween event in 2000 kicked off the popularity of the holiday in Japan.


University Students’ Halloween Carnivals

Kyoto University of Foreign Studies. 2018.

Students at Kyoto University of Foreign Studies embrace the city’s Halloween festivities.  It’s a way to foster good relations between Kyoto residents, shop owners, and the city’s college students. In 2018, costumed students joined in the city’s Halloween parade.



The Geiko’s Bespoke Halloween Kimono

Remember the vibrant geiko Kokimi, author of Barefaced Geiko?  We explore her charming 2007 book about Gion life in Maiko Masquerade.  She doesn’t mention Halloween as an event that year.  But it turns out this chic geiko likes goblins, too.

Three years ago, Kokimi commissioned an orange striped kimono, complete with ghosts and witches, to wear in her exclusive bar. She does not wear it in public.  For pictures of Kokimi wearing this Halloween-inspired kimono and the long process of creating it, see Naosuke’s blog.



For much more on where and how to celebrate Halloween in Japan 2021, see Japan Wonder Travel Blog

Jan Bardsley, “Imagining a Maiko Halloween Party,”, October 30, 2021.



  1. Rebecca Copeland

    I love Kokimi’s spooky kimono!

    • Janice Bardsley

      Isn’t that creative? Kokimi has flair in conversation, dance, and kimono style!

  2. Aki

    Halloween has become one of the biggest holidays in Japan, hasn’t it? You can see Halloween motif everywhere.

    • Janice Bardsley

      It’s a holiday appealing to children and adults alike. I’d love to read those Japanese children’s books on Halloween. Jan

  3. Haruka

    We enjoy Halloween as not decorations but also costumes! I saw a “pumpkin fairy” in a street today…a baby wearing a pumpkin dress! So pretty!

    • Janice Bardsley

      The pumpkin fairy and pumpkin baby must have made me people smile. A creative way to brighten the day! Jan

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