The Day My Japanese Students Discovered Halloween

Halloween, in terms of Western holidays, isn’t such a big deal in Japan… yet. It does seem that each year I live here – this has been my third Halloween in Japan – it gets a little more popular. More decorations, more Halloween-themed candy, more excitement. But given Japan’s love for all things confectionary and costume-related, it’s surprising it hasn’t taken off quicker and to a greater degree.

In my first year here, I had heard that Halloween wasn’t a big thing, but I wanted to make sure that if there were ANY trick-or-treaters, I would not disappoint them. So I put out decorations, bought candy… and proceeded to spend a whole evening at home eating said candy myself, with the help of my husband.

One of the reasons I’ve been given as to why Halloween is not so popular, is that people – especially older people – honestly have no idea what it’s about. Vaguely they know it’s about pumpkins and candy and ghosts but that’s about it. The younger people though, the ones that have had years of ALTs like me telling them Halloween is fun, have started to catch on, and realized that “trick-or-treat” is a magical phrase of candy-flavoured blessings.

I found a real pumpkin in Japan!

Real pumpkin get! The decorative stickers were included!

So when I found what was probably the only real, orange pumpkin in my whole city, and convinced a bemused stock boy to let me buy it (it was just for decoration), every single junior and senior high school student I triumphantly walked past stared in curious awe, exclaiming, “is that the real thing?”

Halloween at my school this year was possibly the most legendary Halloween I’ve experienced in recent times. I victoriously toted my pumpkin around to all my classes, along with giant fake tarantulas to scare the unsuspecting daydreamers, and an arsenal of pictures to explain the mysteries of Halloween. I stalked the halls at lunchtime with my giant tarantula, awarding the best screamers with treats. And I threw a heck of a Halloween party for my English club. The title of this post is a little misleading – my students know Halloween exists – but they really hadn’t discovered much about it until now.

I wish I could show you pictures of all their happy – and sometimes terrified and disgusted – faces, but alas I cannot put them on the internet in any recognizable form, so the few photos I have that don’t show students’ faces will have to suffice. It’s a few days late now, but anyways, Happy Halloween!

Activity #1: “Mystery Zombie Body Parts!”

mystery body parts buckets

The students had to stick their hand in each of the buckets to figure out what body part was in it. Facial expressions were priceless.

Zombie body parts handout

This is the handout I gave them to teach them the appropriate body parts (funnily enough we didn’t teach “brains” and “guts” in normal class). They had to match the bucket number to the corresponding body part on this handout. Then, as I told them, we could give the zombie back his body parts and he wouldn’t eat us all.

mystery bucket insides

Secrets revealed: The body parts were, in no particular order: fingers, brains, skin, eyeballs, heart and guts.

candy from Tigger-sensei

The students who finished the mystery bucket game first got candy from Tigger-sensei! Actually everyone got candy after they finished. They suffered for it.

Activity #2: Making Mummies! After the body parts were sorted, we moved onto this.  I haven’t done this for years and the students (and Japanese teacher) had never done it so it was great fun. We gave each group a couple rolls of TP and let them go at it for 5 minutes or so, then judged them and took pictures of their creations.

Mummy Teacher

The above mummy, the Japanese teacher for English club, was my masterpiece, and she won! (We based the winner on whoever got the loudest cheers and she won by a landslide!)

This guy was one of the students’ creations. In my opinion this group should’ve won but for the fact that, being arrogant boys, they cheered very loudly for themselves and no one else, and so no one else cheered for them.

Aww, like teacher, like student!

Activity #3: Jack-o-Lantern! After the classroom had been thoroughly corrupted by toilet paper, we began the featured task of the afternoon: pumpkin carving. I had to do all the actual carving (aka knife-wielding) myself, but I had the most captivated audience I’ve EVER had from Japanese high school students, period. I’m not sure if they were more fascinated by the pumpkin itself or the fact that I hadn’t yet cut off a body part in the process. I let them scoop the guts out, which was great fun, too.
taking off the pumpkin lid
There were literally gasps when I finally maneuvered the carefully carved lid off the pumpkin.
scooping out the pumpkin guts
The students went to town with de-gutting the pumpkin. Oddly enough, they didn’t compare it to the closest Japanese version (kabocha squash, often translated as pumpkin), but they said it smelled like watermelon!
the finished Jack-o-Lantern!
Then, in the final push to finish, since the students took their sweet time playing with the pumpkin guts, I had to carve it in a hurry. Nothing fancy but I used one of the students’ designs so she was happy. The pumpkin was soon to become pumpkin puree and roasted seeds anyways! Halloween success!

4 thoughts on “The Day My Japanese Students Discovered Halloween

  1. I love halloween! Its always been my favorite holiday. Its too bad it isn’t too well known in japan , but its getting there.
    One day, I will visit japan in October. I’ll look forward to it. Oh , also you sound like a very wonderful teacher. ♥
    Your students are lucky to have you .

Comments are closed.