1.) The start (1946 ~ 1960)
The purpose was actually to focus on the history of Halloween in Japan, but apparently there is a connection between Halloween and Yoyogi park area. So I will tell the history of these two in one story.
It is amazing to see how an area we know now, wasn’t there a couple years before. After the World War II, GHQ, General Head Quarters, the American commander of allied occupation changed Japan to a Democratic country, took over the area of Yoyogi Park. Yoyogi Park called at that time Washington Heights and the construction started in 1946. It was a huge village with 827 Western looking houses for American Air force and their families and other facilities like churches, theaters and schools. It felt like you were in the US instead of Japan. Japanese people were not allowed to enter except like maids, post-delivery servants and other supported staff. Because of the American Village next to Harajuku station, it is imaginable that there were some shops in Harajuku which focus more on American customers. In 1950 the first Kiddyland selling toys and foreign books, opened in Omotesando dori (Harajuku) and this store focused on American families in Washington Heights.
2.) The change (1962 ~ 1983)
In 1962 Japan got its country back and American bases were disappearing, which means Washington Heights was also not a closed American community village anymore. Japan and America agreed to keep Washington Heights and used it for the Olympic Games 1964. Partially it had been demolished to create stadiums and other Olympic Games facilities. The part which was kept, it was used as accommodation place for athletes. Finally after the Olympic Games, there was not much choice than changing Washington Heights to a certain area which fits next to the stadiums and Meiji shrine. In 1964 the first trees were planted in the new plan of Yoyogi Park. Except one house of Washington Heights, as a memory, all the parts of Washington Heights were swiped away. Yoyogi Park was completed in 1971.
Before that, Harajuku has still been attracted to foreigners. A lot of Americans wished to have some Halloween items during Halloween. The toy store Kiddyland provided Halloween toys and decorations for foreign customers and it was such a success, the store has organized Halloween parades from 1983. Yearly more and more families in costumes have joined the Kiddyland Halloween parades.
3.) The booming tradition (1997 ~ now)
The international influence around Yoyogi Park, years before, has spread the costume love further more. Until now, there are some Elvis Presley look-a-likes at the entrance of Yoyogi Park and the cosplay stores around Harajuku station. Wearing costumes in Japan has been seen as something awesome, and the American theme-park Disneyland came with a huge Halloween theme in 1997. This is actually the beginning of acknowledging Halloween in the Japanese society. It became a big trend and more foreigners have attracted Japanese to celebrate Halloween. Although not everybody in Japan appreciates that, since the Halloween party peeps have been making trouble in the society during Halloween. Beside of a couple of Elvis Presleys in front of Yoyogi Park, the park itself is nothing related to the Americans anymore. It is a popular park for strolls, picnics, seasonal vibes and international events.
Want to know what is around Yoyogi right now, please check our other blog To-Do-List in Yoyogi, click here.