Japan theme parks out to scare up more Halloween visitors
TOKYO -- Once a blip on the calendar, Halloween has grown into a major event in Japan. And this year, major theme parks here are once again looking to generate some scary numbers by offering bigger, better attractions celebrating the season of orange and black.
The Halloween effect is no phantom phenomenon. In October last year, both Tokyo Disney Resort and Universal Studios Japan attracted the most visitors they have ever received in a single month. That was largely because the holiday, which is always on Oct. 31, fell on a Saturday.
This year, Halloween falls on a Monday. But theme parks are hoping to outdo last year's record-setting performances by giving visitors a little extra.
Tokyo Disneyland is kicking off the season Friday with a revamped Halloween parade that will see the event get its first makeover in three years.
The roughly 50-minute parade features some 90 performers, including Disney characters dressed as pumpkins, witches and ghosts, and dancers.
Disney Ambassador Hotel, a Disney-themed facility adjacent to the theme park, is giving some of its guest rooms the Halloween treatment. Rooms for three will be available at prices between 54,600 yen and 68,900 yen ($538 and $678).
Universal Studios Japan is also kicking off the Halloween season Friday. Like Disneyland, it is upping the "boo" factor.
Halloween Horror Nights, the Osaka theme park's most popular Halloween event, will be held every night from Saturday until Nov. 6. Last year, it was held only on weekends and public holidays in September and November.
The nightly event will include a new J-Horror Area dedicated to Japanese horror themes. "Trauma 2: The Experimental Hospital Ward of Horror" promises to offer more screams than last year, when the attraction made its debut.
The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, a popular area that recreates the "Harry Potter" universe, will from next Wednesday include a show featuring sinister characters called Death Eaters.
In a more lighthearted daytime event, a cluster of barrels and kettles will spit out candies for children who utter magic words.
USJ hopes the tweaks will help it top the record 1.75 million visitors it welcomed in October 2015.
Sanrio Puroland, an indoor theme park in Tokyo based around the Hello Kitty character, is looking to attract an older crowd during its Puro Halloween Party 2016 by adding more thrills and chills for nighttime visitors. The nocturnal event runs from Saturday through the end of October.
Under the theme "a little scary night party time," Hello Kitty characters dressed as ghosts and vampires, and dancers made up as zombies will wander around the park. The daytime theme will be a more kid-friendly "cute Halloween party time."
It is not only theme parks that are tapping into the Halloween fever.
In Tokyo's Shibuya district, a magnet for costumed revelers in recent years, the Shibuya Hikarie commercial complex will host the International Costume Contest on Oct. 29. Registration for the event, to be held by the Shibuya Otona Halloween Planning Committee, will be open until Oct. 14 on the organizer's website.
This year, the competition will also be telecast on a large screen above the pedestrian crossing outside Shibuya Station. Last year, large numbers of Halloween revelers flocked to Shibuya and other hot spots in the capital to show off their costumes, drawing the attention of the media.