Oct 19, 2017
Creative Costumes on the Cheap
As late October approaches, lots of Halloween events seem to pop up, from big city costume parades to little get-togethers for neighborhood eikaiwa kids. Unfortunately, while Japanese society seems to be embracing the Halloween motif, costume availability has not really kept up, especially for those of us who have a hard time finding clothing as it is. For the most part, costumes tend to be too expensive, too small, or too basic for me to enjoy. So, if you're stuck in a similar situation, here are a few tips for finding/making your Halloween costume.
Think Outside the Box
If you need a costume but don't have the time, money, or size-relationship to get one ready-made in Japan, start by redefining "costume" because a Halloween costume doesn't have to labelled Halloween. While creative interpretation isn't a prized skill when it comes to kanji recognition, it really comes in handy here. There are a number of fairly easy and cheap things you can put together without too much effort if you know where to go. Looking through a second hand shop for strange clothes that fit you can be an invigorating experience. Also make sure to check for make-up and accessories at 100 yen stores like Daiso to help round out your outfit.
But Not Too Far Outside the Box
Remember that your students are not native English speakers and not likely that familiar with pop culture as it is in your home country. Some outfits, even if they are easy to put together and recognizable to people you know on Facebook may just baffle your students. If you choose to use this as an educational opportunity, go for it! Just remember that it is okay if not everyone gets what you are going for.
I have a habit of picking costumes my students do not recognize at all (mantis shrimp, lemur, were-Pekinese, Toshiya from Dir en Grey's indy period) and this year I think I learned my lesson. I really miss my days of cosplay in college, when people would stop me at anime conventions to take pictures of the costumes I put so much work into. With that in mind, I picked a Pokemon, and made a costume out of 3 sheets of 100 yen store felt, gardening wire, a knit hat, and a second-hand outfit I already owned.
Be Appropriate for the Occasion
Remember that what might be considered a little skimpy back home is likely completely inappropriate for any work-related gathering here. Anything too scary, with lots of blood or gore, is also probably out of bounds if you are going to a party that includes smaller kids. I write this having accidentally terrified a shopkeeper in rural Japan when I forgot to wipe my "vampire blood" from my face on my lunch break during a day of Halloween-themed kids classes. My kids weren't that freaked out, but it was still awkward.
If you're going to a party that has a required theme, try to follow it but find a way to make it your own. The theme for this party was plants and vegetables. I chose a plant-type Pokemon. Two kids recognized me. It was a good day.
In addition, if you're a parent with a little one who desperately needs a costume for an event, have no fear. You can always pick some stuff up at the 100 yen store and most kids events are full of little witches and pumpkins and the like for this reason. If you want to do something a little different, here are my instructions for making a basic green pepper costume. Change it to orange and it's a pumpkin or an orange. Pick another color and another round-ish object of that color and there you go. Accessorize accordingly and viola! For an adult sized costume, you'll need 4 or more sheets of 100 yen store felt. For a small child, just 1 will do.
Pair with appropriate colored tights/pants and shirt and you are done! My kid doesn't seem too thrilled in the above picture, but she actually had an alternative costume ready. Behold, the fairy-trooper:
She had wings but wanted to wear Captain Phasma's cape from the original costume instead. It was still fun.
And that's the most important thing. Whatever you choose to do for your Halloween, have fun!
A working mom/writer/teacher, Jessica explores her surroundings in Miyagi-ken and Tohoku, enjoying the fun, quirky, and family friendly options the area has to offer.