Sascha Koki
Hawai‘i Herald Columnist

It’s not just me; Halloween and fall seasonal decorations were definitely on shelves by August this year as soon as they cleared out all of the back-to-school supplies. I shouldn’t be surprised, it’s been happening for quite some time now, but it still catches me off guard, somehow. Halloween was always something I looked forward to seeing a lot throughout October; in recent years, it feels like Halloween season kicks off after Labor Day.

Not that I mind the extra month; ever since I was little, Halloween thrilled me. It lit up my imagination with fright and fantasy. When we’d go to Party City in Waikele, the masks on the walls scared me but I’d try to ignore them to seek costume pieces. While they had kits, my mom was the DIY-type and, therefore, so was I. We’d also go to Fabric Mart for buttons and materials.

Sascha’s oldest as Luffy from the popular One Piece manga and anime.

I dressed up as Princess Jasmine, a princess bride, a fairy princess, a red devil, a witch in all black. I channeled Naomi Campbell, Annie, a black cat and a pumpkin. My mom would match me, often, but she was just as creative with her co-workers’ group costumes and always made an impact.

With a mother whose office and clients were in Waikïkï, I spent a lot of time in the Waikïkï Halloween parade. If Halloween fell on a weekday, we would often go around to all of the Halloween events over the weekend leading up to it. Her friends from Japan would often fly in because they loved Halloween in Waikïkï so no matter the day of the week, we all dutifully dressed up and got ready to wander the crowded, rowdy strip for a few hours. We’d all grab dinner at one of her clients’ restaurants – a frog, a yakuza caricature, a pink afro with zero context, and my mom in a bathrobe and boxers dressed as a balding man, and me. Standing out in the middle of an upscale Italian restaurant was an understatement.

Sascha’s oldest as Luffy from the popular One Piece manga and anime.
Sascha’s oldest as Luffy from the popular One Piece manga and anime.

My mom and her friends call it being an omatsuriyaro, a slang word for someone that is way too enthusiastic about celebrations. It’s a term of endearment; she and all of her friends love pulling together a great party or event.

When I visited Japan in the fall for the first time, one of the first things that struck me was how pervasive Halloween was in everything. It was fantastic, and the attention to detail was second to none. Tökyö Disneyland and DisneySea were draped in glowing friendly jack-o-lanterns, bales of hay and seasonal flavors galore. Hogwarts at Universal Studios Japan in Ösaka was extra magical, and even Skytree was awash in orange, purple and black with green accents.

But there was also a lot of fall. Apples, sweet potatoes, cinnamon, pumpkin. They weren’t just celebrating Halloween; they were celebrating fall in full force. And I loved it. I realized even without the bite of a cooling autumnal wind, a balmy September in Japan buzzed with a sort of fresh start excitement I often associate with a new school year. It felt like a visual cue to prepare for winter and the new year, and I loved it even more.

So, in celebration of Halloween and fall harvest – a season of creativity, comfort and contemplation, I give you the Art of Celebrating Fall like a proper omatsuriyaro in hopes of converting at least one local person who grumbles “what’s the point? Hawai‘i has no seasons!” Yeah dude, it’s why it’s so great to celebrate with all of the tchotchkes of the season.

  1. Seasonal flavors in Japan are a must. Pumpkin-maple churros at Tökyö Disneyland.
    Seasonal flavors in Japan are a must. Pumpkin-maple churros at Tökyö Disneyland.

    Embrace the words “limited seasonal edition”

The words kikan gentei are like kryptonite to nearly every Japanese person I know. “Limited seasonal edition” in Japan really means one and done so people take that seriously. When Brent and I discovered Asahi Black & Orange – a seasonal flavor we found one year in the fall – I tried to warn him that he may never have this flavor ever again, like, for years, if ever. He was devastated to learn it was true when we returned a couple of years later. But, the ephemeralness of the seasonal flavors are what make it so magical and worth falling for everytime. Embrace it.

2. Decorate, it really sets the tone

Halloween Pokemon Pikachu.
Halloween Pokemon Pikachu.

I write this as I sit in a messy living room that I can see in my peripheral line of sight; the kids’ toys in unceremonious mountains that blockade a clear path to the TV and the bookshelf at the same time (insert scowling emoji here). Usually, I would have my dramatic candle stands and potion bottles decorating the shelves but it feels like a hazard so I’ll wait until I go on yet another cleaning rampage then decorate as a reward to myself. But, I have boxes (plural) dedicated to Halloween décor, and I’m proud that my kids are just as excited. For us, it’s a celebration and a change to be creative while changing up the pace in the house.

3. Dress up, it helps to get your creative spirit out

Cosplay at Tōkyō Disneyland is allowed only in October.
Cosplay at Tōkyō Disneyland is allowed only in October.

To plan and coordinate group costumes takes dedication, time and effort but it’s well worth it. I see it as a bonding experience and a chance to learn or hone a skill. Sure, there are kits that make it way easier but have you ever done a 10 days till Halloween costume countdown that goes from Fresh Prince to Luffy from One Piece as you coax the correct facial expressions of glee from your baby? Or going along with your kids’ imagination and dressing as a family of monsters and getting your very reluctant husband to wear contour for the sake of being a zombie? That’s love.

4. Be a weirdo

In October, our family movie nights are all Halloween-themed. We make Halloween playlists and sing songs at the top of our lungs. We carve pumpkins and dance in the garage. We get our weirdo energy out. By making it a celebration that goes all out in its own way, we find the season to be about family (and the Addams Family, too).

5. Plan what’s coming next

Once Halloween is over, I make like Disney and pack up seasonal decorations overnight, leaving out only Thanksgiving-appropriate items. Things get cozier and more settled and we’re off to planning our big Thanksgiving weekend, and of course, the holiday frenzy to follow.

Anyway, just a thought from this omatsuriyaro.

Join me on my journey to self care and happiness along and see how I do with the rest of my goals. You can find me at @saschakoki on Instagram for more.

Sascha Koki is the vice president of Media Etc., a PR marketing company based in Honolulu. As a Japanese and Black hapa bilingual woman who grew up in Hawai‘i and Japan, Sascha has a unique perspective on growing up with three rich cultures; she sees herself as a bridge that connects these worlds through her career and in life. Happily married and a mother of two humans and one pup, she strives to raise her pack of wild cubs into compassionate beings that wield their powers for good while enjoying all that life has to offer. Passionate about fashion, beauty, wellness and good (okay, and bad) TV in near equal measures, this former Miss Waikiki and UH Rainbow dancer is a true Aquarius.

In her column, she plans to write about “lifestyle,” which really means anything and everything, all at once. Her wish is to inspire and shed light on everything from cultural issues to hilarious culture shock moments through personal stories.


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