Nobody is welcome to Shibuya this year for Halloween. Referring to last year’s Itaewon Halloween crowd crush, Mayor Hasebe made the unprecedented announcement citing concerns over potential overcrowding accidents occurring in Shibuya. The city will ban public drinking and ask businesses to temporarily halt sales of alcohol during the week of Halloween.
Done being lenient
Put Shibuya and Halloween together and what do you get? Chaos.
To be exact, we are talking about the kind of chaos that saw a total of more than 560 thousand people pass through the Shibuya crosswalk between October 28th and 30th last year, averaging nearly 190 thousand a day. That’s enough people to fill Tokyo Dome ten times over. And most of them are in costumes–––drunk.
And what do you do with this chaos?
In previous years, Shibuya City officials tried managing it with crowd control measures and increased security. Police forces had bomb squads on standby.
Even private businesses took steps of their own. Last year, convenience stores in Shibuya wrapped big blue tarps around alcohol aisles to deter drunken behavior.
Shibuya PARCO took a harsher approach and turned potential troublemakers away with a sign that read “We decline the entry of people wearing Halloween costumes.”
But this year is not about managing.
Until last year, Shibuya City had “stated that we wish people to enjoy Halloween in Shibuya” while “keeping manners and morals in mind” said Mayor Hasebe at a morning press conference on September 12th.
But this year, Shibuya officials want nothing to do with Halloween.
The visuals and statements at Tuesday’s press conference made that clear. Just to Mayor Hasebe’s left, a projector cast the following message onto a big white screen.
渋谷はハロウィーンイベントの会場ではありません。NO EVENTS FOR HALLOWEEN AT SHIBUYA STREETS.
On the left-hand side of the message, the kanji for Shibuya’s “Shibu” is altered so that it looks like a jack-o’-lantern is being crossed out with an x.
Into the microphone, Mayor Hasebe said ” I am extremely worried that what happened in Seoul, Korea last year could easily happen in Shibuya. I don’t want anyone coming near Shibuya train station for Halloween purposes during the Halloween season.”
The city will introduce legislation that will make drinking in public illegal between October 27th and November 1st.
Officials are also asking convenience stores in notorious drinking spots to halt sales of alcohol between October 28th and 31st.
Asking in this case means that the city will not punish businesses if they do sell alcohol during the designated period. Just as when they asked people to stay home instead of imposing legal lockdowns, officials are asking that stores don’t tempt customers with booze.
Preparing for the worst, 100 patrolmen will be dispatched to areas close to Shibuya station.
The more, the messier
During last year’s Halloween, Shibuya Crossing was packed with 4% more people compared to pre-COVID 2019, and 49% more people compared to 2021 when Japan was still imposing social distancing measures. This marked a huge recovery from 2020 when attendance took a dip while still maintaining a crowd of tens of thousands.
Before news broke about Shibuya banning Halloween, this year’s attendance was anticipated to be explosive with it being the first Halloween since Japan opened its borders up to tourism in May.
In addition to mounting street garbage, safety is a concern for both Japanese officials and citizens due to past Halloween incidents.
On October 31st of 2021, dressing in a Joker costume, Hattori Kyota stabbed passengers and set fire to a moving train on the Keio line. The Tachikawa Deparment of the Tokyo District Court handed Hattori a prison sentence of 23 years on July 31st this year.
During questioning, in response to the question “How do you feel towards the victims now?” Hattori answered, “When I think about the victims, I feel like there’s no point in living for someone like me. But I also have conflicting feelings that I must keep living in order to make up for my crimes.”
In 2018, drunk Halloween crowd-goers overturned a small truck in Shibuya. Four of the estimated fifteen individuals involved in the incident were arrested less than two months later.
Investigators were able to pin the identity of the four individuals out of the 40 thousand people who were in Shibuya that night using footage from the 250 security cameras in the Shibuya area.
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