October 23, 2009

Apparently, Halloween has caught on here in Japan. I’d been aware of this for some time, but I’ve never actually been in Japan during autumn before. I’ve been mulling over why it’s caught on, and surely a large factor is the colorful and standard motifs, such as witches, ghosts and jack-o-lanterns. I also suppose that the spirit of the event might strike a cord similar to O-bon, which I have sometimes described to friends as being akin to Dia de los Muertos in the Americas. Not that many of these events resound deeply in our pagan ancestry anymore, candy-colored and packaged up as they are, but I’d like to think there’s a similar atmosphere running amongst them.

Pumpkin flan for Halloween, made with kabocha pumpkin from Hokkaido.

Pumpkin flan for Halloween, made with kabocha pumpkin from Hokkaido.

The Japanese already have a fondness for pumpkin during the fall, Hokkaido being the notable pumpkin prefecture, but I have heard on occasion that they have no great love for cinnamon, nutmeg, or allspice. A teacher of mine once commented it “tasted too much like bark.” I wondered if he’d been given a stick of it in apple cider, or if he had only tasted it ground. So, although many pumpkin flavored desserts abound, they are not spiced.

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The Halloween motif on the package struck my fancy.

The pumpkin pudding tasted like very fresh kabocha, which is the green-skinned, smaller pumpkin of Japan. It has a very similar taste to the orange pumpkins we use in the states, but is very hard to cut into. The puddings were slightly sweet, but the bitter caramel sauce wasn’t a good match with the delicate kabocha flavor. I also have plans to make Halloween sugar cookies, but the effort required to do icing decoration is daunting me.

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Cookie making materials are gathered and ready.

I’m also really starting to feel the cold weather at night, the house gets down right icy when the windows are left open. During the day when the sun is shining, the weather is heavenly, but when left open after dark, it’s frigid. The house has pretty good insulation (despite what I’ve heard over and over about Japanese houses being poorly insulated) but we like the air circulation from the outside breeze, so we just put on our pajamas and snuggle under the feather comforter and the duvet. If I do manage to make those cookies, I’ll post the results.

The sunlight and the air has a very crisp, autumn feeling, which is invigorating after the stultifying summer heat. I have terrible circulation, which improves no matter what I eat, wear or how much exercise I take. I simply have icy mitts. One of the little pleasures during the winters in NYC, I discovered one-use heating packets, which can be slipped into a pocket or mitten. Some of them also have an adhesive side, to stick to clothing (but don’t stick them on your skin, they’re much hotter than the muscle-heating pads sold for aches and cramps) They’re extremely popular in Japan, and I was thrilled to find a Relakkuma packet pouch. I’m sitting here  like a complete louse, in my cheap Uniqlo hoodie warming my stomach with the pad as I write.

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Here's the package the pouch came in, along with two heating packets. This one is the neurotically fastidious Korelakkuma, wearing sheep jammies.

Just looking at the wooley pouch makes me drowsy, although the warning on the packet says to not sleep with this... yeah right.

Just looking at the wooley pouch makes me drowsy, although the warning on the packet says to not sleep with this... yeah right.

Since I’m so geared up for Halloween this year, I’ve made a list of movies, musics, and TV shows which are must-sees for me. Here’s the run down:

Halloween Playlist:

  • This is Halloween – Kingdom Hearts II: This is a nice rendition of the original melody
  • This is Halloween – The Nightmare Before Christmas: I don’t think you can really beat this for fun
  • Night on Bald Mountain – Mussorgsky: This is actually pretty scary, it freaks me out at least
  • Time Warp – Rocky Horror Picture Show: Rocky and Halloween go together like peas n’ carrots.
  • Head Over Heels – Tears for Fears: From Donnie Darko, which is somehow a Halloween film for me
  • Hellsing OST: A few tracks from this give an atmospheric feeling, and a few are a little devilish
  • Don’t Fear the Reaper: Blue Oyster Cult: This is a nice, ghostly song. I have two other covers as well
  • Devil May Cry 1 & 3 OST: Some of the creepy BG music sets an October mood for me,  some “devil rock” in the mix
  • Dead Souls – Nine Inch Nails: A little ghostly, and a little creepy
  • Monster’s Halloween Party: One of those cheesy, haunted house albums, but this one is more cute than jarring
  • Every Day is Halloween – Ministry: Well, a little more 80’s stuff to remind me of Halloween’s past
  • Symphony of the Night OST – Michiru Yamane: Gothic and creepy, very very elegant.
  • Love Will Tear Us Apart – Joy Divison: Another from Donnie Darko, more 80’s nostalgia
  • Cry Little Sister – Lost Boys: My favorite song from the Lost Boys, my favorite vampire movie
  • Under the Milky Way – The Church: More Donnie Darko nostalgia
  • Bela Lugosi’s Dead – Bauhaus: Reminds me of Uncle Ray’s gothic dance and skull belt
  • Libra Me – Interview with the Vampire: Very eerie and gothic, probably more so than the movie
  • Living Dead Girl, Dragula – Rob Zombie: These are fun to hear again once in a while
  • Mephisto Waltz – Lizst: Well, the titular character of this is obviously the reason I like it

Some Must-See Movies:

  1. The Nightmare Before Christmas: This dual holiday movie I never get sick of every Halloween
  2. The Shining: This movie is just creepy, because Jack Nicholson is creepy
  3. Donnie Darko: This movie captures October back in the 80’s for me, perfectly
  4. Sleepy Hollow: A sick sense of humor, beautiful sets and atmosphere
  5. Bram Stoker’s Dracula: Ribald, tongue-in-cheek, and tons of fun
  6. The Fearless Vampire Killers: Nearly silent, beautiful and eerie, yet dementedly humourous
  7. The Lost Boys: Death by stereo

TV Shows & Etc:

  1. X-Files: Some of the supernatural and ghostly episodes are freaky, great sense of camp humor
  2. Castle Ghosts of England, Ireland and Scotland: This show scared the heck out of me as a kid
  3. Ghost Watching: A YouTube channel with hundreds of mostly British ghost TV shows, the Tube one is great
  4. Anything Ghost: A podcast featuring matter-of-fact retellings of personal experiences submitted in by listeners
  5. Castlevania: Nothing like a good vampire hunt to kick off the season.
  6. Devil May Cry: It’s hard to be too freaked out by demons and ghosts when you’re Dante

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