Seven years ago, I took a wrong turn on the Internet and stumbled upon the insane world of Japanese Halloween costumes. The next year, I went deep into the underbelly of the German costuming industry and barely escaped with my life, and also one column. Finally, in 2008, having taken a vow to leave no insane costume behind, I went back.
Hulton Archive/Getty Images
Which is just one of the ways my life has paralleled John Rambo's.
It's taken awhile for me to regroup mentally, and since then not a Halloween has passed that I haven't spent shouting out the window at costumed children passing by. But I'm better now and, would you believe it, the Japanese aren't. Indeed, they're crazier than ever, and below I've gathered some of the nuttiest examples of what Japanese costumers have been up to in the past few years.
(For some of you, allow me to head off your criticism right away: There are obvious and significant cultural differences between the Japanese and us, and even a small amount of research would illuminate and explain why these costumes are less insane than they first might seem.)
(For the rest of you: Don't worry. I haven't done any of that research.)
#28. Egotistical Jester
Generations of artificial selection (via beheading) have resulted in only the sturdy-headest of Japanese jesters remaining.
#27. Off-Brand Batman
The Japanese version of Batman is not incredibly wealthy and only battles crime to win the approval of the pillows he's used to replace his dead parents.
#26. Reluctant Tiger Hat
This may not be a Halloween costume, instead just a piece of fan paraphernalia for a Japanese baseball team. (The Leopards, I'm guessing.) But I found it on a costume website, so here it is. What I really like about it is the look on the guy's face, like he's cheering under duress. Like the fact that he's wearing a severed head isn't filling him with as much sporting pride as he'd first hoped.
#25. Happy Cake Hat Lady
That's not the problem here. This cake hat is the greatest thing to ever happen to this woman. If it were possible (and this is Japan, so yes), she would have this cake hat's babies.
#24. Kermit Must Scream
Eye holes are an easy thing to get wrong when making masks, and no one gets it wrong harder than the Japanese. This looks like beloved children's character Kermit the Frog can't stop screaming because he's swallowed someone whole. It really can't be done any worse than this.
#23. Gonzo Can See You
AHHHH. AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH. WHY DID I TEMP FATE LIKE THAT?
#22. The Cow Sees Everything
Here at last we have the eye holes in the right place, the right place of course being where they'll incite the most terror in strangers when you approach them offering delicious milk.
#21. Limp Wig
Japanese rockabilly culture is a real thing, so this is less out of place than it seems. If I read that Japanese correctly (I cannot read Japanese), the wig also includes a little inflatable bladder that causes the hair to spring up when a pretty lady walks by.
#20. Business Horse Means Business
Business Horse, reacting to a sudden dip in the market that's wiped out his latest position.
#19. Speak No Evil
I don't know what he's saying, but I can't imagine it's too savory. If it were me in there, it'd be nothing but crude boasts, so just imagine that, but in Japanese. Still, what the hell, Japan? What excuse could you possibly have for making a costume that's just a creepy mouth?
#18. Radio Star
Actually, if you're starting with this, a lips-only mask does start to make a lot of sense.
#17. Seduction Lantern
To me, this seems to be less of a costume and more of a way to harass women from a couple feet farther away than normal, and it is, thus far at least, my favorite.
#16. Rudolph, Devourer of Worlds
The Japanese lyrics to "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer" don't translate very well and warn revelers of his voracious appetite for eating young women whole.
#15. Parasite Claus
In Japanese culture, Santa Claus is actually a parasite that infects one unlucky citizen every year, dooming his victim to carry Santa about, spreading Christmas cheer.