KATRINA CROSBY WRITES – On one side of you, there is a zombie, and on the other– a futuristic robot. All at once, a sexy cop smiles from across the aisle while she slips back into conversation with Sailor Moon. Where is this? None other than one of Japan’s infamous Halloween trains, back again for the upcoming festivities.
Adored by Halloween enthusiasts, while hated by everyday commuters, Japan’s Halloween trains have a notorious history. Dating back to the 1990s, the trains of Osaka and Tokyo transformed overnight into boozy costume parties where Japanese foreigners could come together to drink and let loose. These individuals would cause such a disturbance to passengers simply by their attempts to get back home, due to their noise and their excessive mess. Oftentimes, when the night ended, the passengers on board one of these ghastly, if not ghostly, gatherings would leave behind empty beer bottles and leftover costume materials throughout the separate carts. Additionally, the costume-wearing attendees often filmed themselves, and uploaded said videos of their escapades to online sites, such as Youtube. The video clips of the “1994 Halloween Yamanote Party Train Boarding at Shinjuku” shows the vast amount of people who would arrive and board a single train at the same time. Screaming and shouting only adds to the chaotic atmosphere of its entirety.
The stigma against the Halloween trains lasted for years, and became difficult to break since the party-goers continued to grow more and more rowdy with each holiday that would pass. In 2008, the Yamanote Line in Tokyo forced police officers to arrive at the station platforms with English signs to warm foreign visitors. The goal was to limit the horseplay and add order to a very unorderly event. This type of caution only intensified in 2009, when a riot broke out on the same Yamanote line in Tokyo’s Shinjuku Station, where anti-horseplay protesters held signs that stated, “We Japanese Don’t Need Halloween!”
Today, however, Halloween is a much more widespread holiday with over 20 million Japanese citizens celebrating the spookiness. This, in turn, has led to the normalization of Halloween trains. Though once hated, the trains are even encouraged in some places. For instance, Osaka’s Midosuji Line has a sign that even welcomes participants. Additionally, the Osaka Subway will have two trains: one for children, and one for adults running this season. There are even zombie themed trains such as the Randen Line, which provides a discount to the passengers who follow the theme and show up in costume. By allowing access to so many different types of Halloween trains, the original distaste that the citizens of Japan had felt is disintegrating into a new annual tradition.
By offering numerous opportunities for individuals to ride on a Halloween train, Japan – as ever problem-solving -is able to monitor the safety of the venue itself. Also, the train allows its citizens to have an engaging, yet contained All Hollow’s Eve. Although the Halloween Trains of Japan started with a rocky past, there is hope that in the years to come, they will continue to go down the right, non-scary track.