Halloween snowballs into popular phenomenon in Japan

TOKYO -- The days of simply slipping on a pair of fake cat ears or devil horns for Halloween are over.

Japan has upped the ante in recent years, becoming the worldwide champion of Halloween - at least in terms of costumes, costumes and more costumes.

Despite Japan's popular subculture of dressing up in elaborate costumes, called cosplay, Halloween used to be limited to not much more than a handful of foreign residents dressing up in costumes and going to some bars, nightclubs and apartment parties. Not many Japanese participated.

But once the holiday began to gain traction in Japan and become a group activity, it quickly snowballed into a phenomenon in which the only limitation is imagination.

Dressing up as monsters, zombies, anime and movie characters -- cool, sexy, or scary -- the Japanese have now completely embraced Halloween, stretching it into a full week of events, parades and costume contests.

It's also become big business, rivaling Valentine's Day, with store-bought costumes selling for $30-$100.

The best costumes, of course, are the original ones.

About the only thing lacking is the concept of trick-or-treating. Children going door to door at neighborhood homes and collecting candy seems a long way off, if indeed it ever comes to Japan.