Last month, Tokyo’s Shibuya City announced that it didn’t want anyone coming to the location’s famous scramble to celebrate Halloween. Now, Tokyo residents are learning just how serious the city is about cracking down on dissidents.
No one puts Hachiko in a corner!!
In mid-September, Shibuya mayor Hasebe Ken held a press conference where he pleaded with visitors and residents not to celebrate the upcoming Halloween holiday in Shibuya’s streets. To ensure the party is well and canceled, the city also said it will ban public drinking during this time (usually allowed under Japanese law).
The informal gathering has been popular among Japan’s young for years as a free spot to dress up, drink, and socialize. However, 2022’s tragedy in Itaewon, South Korea, where 159 revelers died in a Halloween crowd rush, spooked Shibuya officials that something similar could happen in Tokyo.
Additionally, some residents and officials have griped about Shibuya Halloween for years. The event requires a beefy police presence to keep the rowdy crowd under control. And the party leaves a massive mess for the city to sweep up the following day.
With just days to go until Halloween, Shibuya’s made it clear it’s not messing around. In a bid to prevent people from gathering for the event, they’ve cordoned off the entire area around Hachiko, the famous statue of a loyal dog that serves as a common meeting point.
Residents also report that, at least on Saturday night, officials had closed off the Hachiko exit of Shibuya Station. That led to backups as confused commuters figured out how to reach their non-party destinations.
The closure and caging of Hachiko will last until November 1st.
Do residents actually support the Shibuya Halloween ban?
The crackdown is a marked contrast from Itaewon, where the government seems to have responded with better police coverage and an increased CCTV presence. However, some there have also criticized political officials for attempting to sweep the tragedy under the rug.
The one survey I could find, from the company Office Gift, found that 86% of those who responded support the restrictions. However, the survey is a small, self-selected Internet poll of around 300 people between ages 10 and 70, so the sample size isn’t large. The company also didn’t break responses out by age or by whether they even live in or near Shibuya.
Top comments on popular news site Yahoo! News Japan seem more skeptical. Editor and journalist Eguchi Shintaro says that the closure is likely to be effective, similar to the effectiveness of closures of mass events during the COVID-19 crisis. But he also wonders “what kind of impression this will leave on tourists.”
“They should rethink this full-scale closure next year, even if it’s temporarily effective,” he writes. “If they stick to the same strategy, it’ll be hard for Shibuya to maintain its reputation as a city of culture.”
Another commenter received over 8,000 thumbs up for suggesting that Shibuya ban the media instead, whose coverage they blame for the Halloween chaos. “Not letting them in or giving them the time of day seems like the best strategy.”
Where to have Halloween fun that isn’t Shibuya
This raises an interesting question: can you cancel a party you never officially held? After all, Shibuya Halloween has never been a sanctioned event; it’s a spontaneous happening the city reacts to.
Some observers say there’s no lack of costumed party-goers clogging the streets of Shibuya outside of the famous Scramble. It’s possible that, despite the ban around the Scramble, revelers will just spill out into the surrounding streets.
Hopefully, officials are prepared for this and will deploy adequate crowd control. (I assume they have, if for nothing else than to enforce the ban against street drinking.) It’s arguably more dangerous for people to pack into some of the narrow side streets around Shibuya Station than it is for them to gather in and around the Scramble.
Of course, Shibuya isn’t the only Halloween party in town. Private companies like MK.creators have jumped on the Shibuya closure to promote their own events in areas such as Shinjuku, Roppongi, and Ginza.
Interested if the ban will hold up? If you’re in Tokyo, you could go see for yourself. However, given the circumstances, we wouldn’t recommend that. Instead, check out FNN’s live cam of Shibuya Scramble on the eve of the 31st to see how the night progresses.
What to read next
‘Nothing Has Changed’: Families of Itaewon’s Crowd Crush Victims Aren’t Ready to Move On. Time
渋谷駅前の“忠犬ハチ公像”周辺を封鎖 ハロウィーン対策で来月１日まで. Yahoo! News Japan