Pandemic Translates to Low Turnout at Shibuya Halloween 2020

Pandemic Translates to Low Turnout at Shibuya Halloween 2020

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Halloween in Shibuya
Is Shibuya's (in)famous Halloween party dead? A subdued 2020 event due to the pandemic leads some to speculate on its future.

Since 2013, the Tokyo neighborhood of Shibuya has served as the annual epicenter of Halloween festivities, culminating in impromptu costume parades, street dance parties, and of course, drunken revelry. Having attended Shibuya Halloween once myself, it’s no surprise that the youth culture centered-neighborhood would be a haven for partygoers on the spookiest night of the year.

Hundreds of thousands of revelers usually attend, culminating in a “human sea” of costumes and frolic. As a matter of fact, over 1,000,000 people were at the street party last year, despite crackdowns on alcohol and pedestrian traffic flow in response to the disastrous 2018 Shibuya Halloween that ended in multiple arrests.

“Go To Home” for Halloween 2020

However–and to no one’s surprise–Halloween celebrations this past Saturday were much more subdued, due to the COVID-19 pandemic. While attendance was still in the tens of thousands, that’s a paltry figure compared to previous years, and rightfully so.

In addition to the ongoing global pandemic, the lower turnout could also be attributed to Shibuya Ward’s earnest campaign which urged people to stay at home during Halloween this year. To keep attendees from lingering for too long, no public bathrooms or costume-changing stations were made available to them. Oddly enough, no one was required to wear a protective mask at the event.

Online Halloween events were also organized throughout Japan. Ikebukuro’s event featured cosplayers while Kawasaki held a costume contest. Meanwhile in Osaka, people still gathered in Dotonbori, but most of them wore surgical masks to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Is Halloween Dead in Shibuya?

Such a low turnout has caused people to muse about the future of Shibuya Halloween. Masutani Soichiro, a contributor to Yahoo! Japan, has even gone so far to suggest that the event is owakon, or “dead”. He claims that the combination of sexual harassment, recent crackdowns on public alcohol consumption, and COVID-19 inadvertently worked in tandem to make Shibuya Halloween a passé event.

Masutani also suggests that if the event is to be organized in the future, an attendance fee should be charged. Click To Tweet

Despite these facts, Masutani presented a possible solution to save Shibuya Halloween in the future, especially post-pandemic:




In order for a large-scale event to be successful, it’s important for people to establish a code of conduct well ahead of time. The reason why comic conventions go so smoothly, especially with cosplayers in attendance, is because everyone has an understanding of what is considered acceptable behavior.

Up until 2014, most of the Shibuya Halloween attendees were aware of their actions and conducted themselves accordingly. But because there were no organizers, the event was eventually ruined by a growing number of bandwagoners.

-Masutani Soichiro, “Shibuya Halloween is Dead

Masutani also suggests that if the event is to be organized in the future, an attendance fee should be charged. He also admitted this would be a difficult change, considering the spontaneous, urban origins of this celebration. Yet, this could be said for many large-scale events around the world, as only time will tell when we can truly return to partying and reveling in the streets.

Did you or anyone else you know attend any Halloween events this year? Where there any restrictions/rules if you did attending?
Do you think public Halloween events are dead?

Thalia Harris

Thalia-Marie Harris is a North Jersey/New York native, currently residing in Tokyo, where she works as an ESL teacher and freelance writer. Her previous pieces have appeared in Metropolis Tokyo and pacificREVIEW.

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