It wouldn’t be Halloween without Halloween songs. While the West is familiar with the likes of “Monster Mash” and “Ghostbusters,” what about Japanese songs for Halloween?
After several terrifying tracks, there has been a definite shift post-21st century into the “kawaii” song genre. Let’s have a look at some frightening — and some not so scary — Japanese Halloween songs.
Hako Yamasaki — Noroi (1979)
A terrifying enka number from singer-songwriter Hako Yamasaki, this track features the lyrics: “Knock knock, hammer in the nail,” though this apparently wasn’t about killing someone. Yamasaki revealed that it was directly taken from the Japanese saying, “I warned you,” referring to the time she signed an exploitative record contract with her first company when she was a young singer.
Ignore the meaning, this song is quite scary. “Noroi,” which means “curse,” seems designed to creep out its listeners. The melody itself is a pleasantly mellow acoustic lullaby, over which Yamasaki’s innocent vocals talk about maiming and blood. This juxtaposition arguably makes the song more terrifying. Do not listen to it before going to bed.
Jun Togawa — Osozaki Girl (1985)
Japan’s answer to Kate Bush unsurprisingly has a few songs fit for Halloween. Jun Togawa became a cult favorite with the release of her sophomore album Suki Suki Daisuki in 1985. Still somewhat active to this day, she became known for her frequent collaborations with Susumu Hirasawa of P-Model fame.
The teaser for her second album featured her holding a cat while dressed as a schoolgirl. Togawa often plays up to this kooky image she created, wearing wigs and taking part in various stunts, one of which saw her drinking dirty water and proclaiming it “slightly bitter.”
In “Osozaki Girl” (Late-Bloomer) taken from her second album, she describes a girl gradually “growing up” while on a date. To illustrate this, the video for the song sees her morph from a schoolgirl to a yakuza woman. There is also a homage to Hitchcock’s Psycho, featuring Togawa in a shower, cutting to another shot before she reappears drenched in blood.
If this song piqued your interest, we highly recommend digging into Togawa’s back catalog.
Kenji Kawai — Ring Theme (1998)
One of the movies that cemented Japanese horror as the scariest, introducing the genre to a worldwide audience, was Ring. The theme song cannot, therefore, be ignored on any Halloween song list. Composed by acclaimed Japanese musician, Kenji Kawai (Ghost in the Shell), “The Ring Theme” is enough to give anyone who has seen the movie itself shivers.
Kyary Pamyu Pamyu — Crazy Party Night (Pumpkin no Gyakushu) (2015)
With Halloween becoming more popular in Japan in recent years, there has been an increase in artists wishing to capitalize on the celebration with Halloween-themed tracks.
One of the most famous came from Kyary Pamyu Pamyu in 2015. Her song “Crazy Party Night (Pumpkin no Gyakushu — meaning pumpkins fight back) includes lyrics such as “let’s all dance together” referring to cute ghosts and more. It encapsulates Japan’s relationship with Halloween. The video sees a pink-suited news presenter head into a candy decorated house. Once inside, she discovers green ghosts and pink zombies with blue hair in a tribute to the style you sometimes see in Harajuku.
AKB48 – Halloween Night (2015)
Japanese idol group AKB48 released “Halloween Night” in August 2015. A disco-heavy number, the song is reminiscent of “Bananas” by Gwen Stefani in that it happily spells out the word Halloween in the breakdown. Each member of the troupe dances in a costume, ranging from skeletons to vampires: all the classic Halloween characters.
Sekai no Owari – Hono to Mori no Carnival (2015)
One of Japan’s most famous pop bands, Sekai no Owari (End of the World), released “Hono to Mori no Carnival” (Flame and Forest Carnival) in 2015. Released as a single from their second album Tree, it was commercially and critically acclaimed in no small part thanks to the raucous accompanying video. It sees the four-piece dressed in lustrous red suits, playing instruments while marching gleefully through a glowing forest.
The song’s catchiness is its vice with trumpet toots and accordion playing from Saori Ikeda. Sprinkled with Halloween flavor there are mentions of mummies and vampires throughout.