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News Navigator: Is Tokyo's Shibuya dangerous on Halloween?

Costumed revelers are seen at "Scramble Crossing" in Shibuya Ward, Tokyo, on Oct. 26, 2019. (Mainichi/Kaho Kitayama)

The Mainichi answers some common questions readers may have about annual Halloween gatherings that take place in the Shibuya area of Tokyo.

Question: Oct. 31 marks Halloween. There's a sense of excitement in the air, and the streets are decorated with orange and purple. But my friend who tried to go to Shibuya to celebrate was stopped by their parents. Why?

Answer: For the last few years the area and streets around Shibuya Station have played host to teeming crowds of nighttime Halloween revelers. Following last year's festivities a group of young people were arrested for toppling a small truck, and there were also reports of pickpocketing and groping.

Q: Well none of that sounds good. What were the organizers doing?

A: There are no organizers or hosts, the crowds just occurred naturally. In 2018 close to 100,000 people were out on the streets of Shibuya for Halloween. Attendees wore costumes, shot videos and got involved in the party atmosphere.

Q: Have the shops and businesses nearby been making a lot of money thanks to the events?

A: There appear to be quite a few business owners who have a negative view of the gatherings. Toilets and shop fronts were apparently dirtied in the course of the celebrations, and the director of the local shopping street association said, "The minuses far outweigh any economic effects."

This year, the Shibuya Ward Office has implemented an ordinance forbidding nuisance behavior such as drinking and excessive noise in public locations including parks and streets near Shibuya Station. But there are no punishments for breaking its rules. Furthermore, the ward office will implement safety measures including deploying security staff during the Halloween events, at a cost of around 100 million yen. The Metropolitan Police Department will further dispatch "DJ Police," who use more humorous language to encourage members of the public to be considerate of the rules, as well as members of the riot police squad as a caution.

Q: If there's no punishment, then doesn't it all seem a bit lenient?

A: Shibuya Ward Mayor Ken Hasebe appears to be trying to avoid setting rules and prohibitions that would damage Shibuya's reputation as a spot popular among young people. At a press conference about the measures his administration is taking, he said, "Fundamentally, it would be better not to have an ordinance in place. I would like visitors to have a good time, but also avoid behaving badly and return home on the last train at the latest."

(Japanese original by Kosuke Hino, Tokyo Bureau)

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