One morning, my four-year-old daughter Hana asked me what costume I would wear for her preschool’s Halloween party. I meant to reply truthfully: “I am going as a grumpy German who believes Halloween should only be celebrated where it has ancient cultural significance.” Yet, somehow it came out as: “Why, I am going as a vampire pirate, my dear.”
I harbored the faint hope that she would simply forget about my lapse within the next two minutes. Of course she did not forget, like she never forgets anything she’s supposed to. Over the next couple of days she made it her personal responsibility to tell any relative, friend, neighbor, teacher and conbini clerk that she will be a bat witch for Halloween, and daddy a vampire pirate.
Revenge of the Bat Witch
The bat witch idea came along when she couldn’t decide between bat and witch. It went on for weeks, until my wife found a slightly batty-looking witch costume, so we convinced her that “bat witch” was actually a thing. I also pondered pitching a new character for DC Comics’ Bat family. They don’t have a witch yet, to the best of my knowledge.
The one thing I like even less than Halloween is disappointing my daughter, so I set out to acquire the perfect vampire pirate costume for myself. Not earlier than one day before the event, of course. I did not expect any difficulties finding a vampire coat and a pirate hat at the height of Halloween season. After my purchase I planned on dancing through the streets, loudly paraphrasing Pikotaro’s golden oldie: “I have a vampire costume, I have a pirate costume – uh!”
“I first went to Tokyu Hands in Shinjuku, where usually you can buy anything. In true Tokyu Hands fashion, they did offer a pirate costume. Also in true Tokyu Hands fashion, it was for dogs”
Except I didn’t have a pirate costume. I couldn’t find one. I first went to Tokyu Hands in Shinjuku, where usually you can buy anything. In true Tokyu Hands fashion, they did offer a pirate costume. Also in true Tokyu Hands fashion, it was for dogs.
They did have a large selection of vampire coats for humans. I picked a model that, in true Japanese fashion, bore the English title “Want to Blood.” I contemplated using a non-clothing accessory to symbolize the pirate part. I know that Japan has a history of pirates; there are a lot of unflattering Chinese movies about them. Yet the only vaguely pirate-style non-pet items the store had were swords and daggers. Hana’s preschool, however, had been very clear about its no-weapons policy.
The Curse of Don Quijote
I went back to the dog costume, seriously thinking about how to attach the tiny hat to my head. Alas, there was no way. Clothing made for Japanese humans rarely fits me. No use trying clothing for Japanese pets.
I considered doing a different vampire combination. Vampire nurse? Vampire maid? There were a lot of options for those. I couldn’t make up my mind. It did not take me long to rule out the Charlie Chaplin mustache that was available. Yes, let the balding, grumpy German wear the little mustache to the international kids costume party! That will certainly go over well.
My next stop was the relatively new four-story Picasso shop in my own neighborhood of Meguro, operated by the Don Quijote empire of equally mind-numbing and inspiring discount stores. The problem with those is while you rarely find what you are looking for, you will absolutely find something you aren’t looking for. So I left the store with two bottles of cheap wine, a dangerous-looking bottle of hot sauce and a retro gaming console that I will hide from wife. But I did not find anything a pirate would wear.
“Principles, however, are not a luxury one can afford, if one intends to be a proper vampire pirate”
I spent so much time at Picasso that I didn’t have any left for the toy stores of Ginza and Harajuku or the fetish dealers of Akihabara (someone in this town must have a pirate fetish). My last chance was the local Nitori.
I have been a bit cross with the company since they have turned the once glorious multi-story Kinokuniya bookstore at Takashimaya Times Square into a mundane furniture store. Granted, they left the foreign books floor live, which is what mainly counts for me. But still. It’s a matter of principle. Principles, however, are not a luxury one can afford, if one intends to be a proper vampire pirate.
The chain does not specialize in pirate paraphernalia, yet they usually do have a decent selection of seasonal non-furniture products. And the season was Halloween. Or so I thought.
Attack of Tokyo Christmas
One of my main gripes with Halloween is that it unnecessarily delays Christmas season. In my book, anybody who starts their Christmas preparations later than August can’t possibly be serious.
I was delighted and shocked when I saw that, at Nitori, Halloween had gone and Christmas had come. I dutifully bought a basket full of snowflake-shaped string lights and braced myself for disappointing my daughter.
At home I found a pair of Minnie Mouse ears and, as any Japanese household is required to own by law, a set of slightly sexy bunny ears.
After dinner, I gently asked Hana if it was okay to change my costume concept from pirate to Vampire Minnie Mouse. I got a mildly subversive kick out of the idea of turning Minnie into one of the undead, while at the same time wearing something cute for my daughter.
“No!” she exclaimed.
“Because Minnie is a girl!”
I tried to argue that pretending to be something you are not is kind of the point of getting into costume, but she wouldn’t have it. It was like arguing with a four-year-old. So I did the grown-up thing and put on the bunny ears.
I would very much like to reveal that I ended up being the only adult appearing at the preschool’s party in costume. In truth, there were two or three others among the 50 or so parents that felt the Halloween spirit as strongly as I did. But I can honestly say that I was the only vampire bunny.