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Saturday, November 05, 2005

Koyuki Matsumoto | Popularity of Halloween on the up

Orange pumpkins with carved smiling faces are on display at confectioners and flower shops wherever you look at this time of the year. These vegetables, along with dolls and other goods sporting pumpkin designs or motifs, are the common trappings seen in Japan for Halloween, which is celebrated on Oct. 31.
Halloween, with origins in an ancient Celtic festival, was popularized in the United States by Irish immigrants. In recent years, it has become a seasonal fixture at kindergartens, schools and in local communities across Japan.
Loft Co.'s Shinjuku shop has set aside a space this autumn for its Halloween goods display featuring about 1,000 different kinds of seasonal goods, including candlesticks, small ornaments and costumes.
This year's annual "Hello Halloween Pumpkin Parade" along Omotesando avenue in Shibuya Ward, Tokyo, is scheduled for Sunday. Several thousand people are expected to take part, with a special guest appearance by 1980s pop icon Cyndi Lauper.
The first Halloween parade in Japan was held 22 years ago and organized by Kiddy Land, a toy store in Harajuku, Shibuya Ward. Only about 100 people, most of them children of foreign residents, took part in that parade as the concept was not then familiar to Japanese, according to Kyoichi Sakurai of Kiddy Land's publicity department. Japanese who saw the parade that day just watched with curiosity, Sakurai said.
This year, similar parades and festival events are planned for Tokyo Disney Land in Urayasu, Chiba Prefecture, Universal Studios Japan in Osaka and shopping districts of Kawasaki and Kyoto.
The orange pumpkins used for Halloween decorations are cultivated in the United States and Europe. Shipments of palm-sized Puccini pumpkins and the much larger head-sized Autumn Gold, both imported from the United States and grown around Japan, have increased this season, according to Ota Floriculture Auction Co.

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