2023年11月20日月曜日

TOKYO - SHIBUYA CROSSING SEES SUBDUED HALLOWEEN AS TIGHT SECURITY DAMPENS MOOD - JAPAN

TOKYO - SHIBUYA CROSSING SEES SUBDUED HALLOWEEN AS TIGHT SECURITY DAMPENS MOOD - JAPAN 

@Jackie San


Repeated calls by Tokyo's Shibuya Ward to stay away during Halloween seemed to have been received loud and clear by revelers Tuesday night, as crowds in the famous district were markedly thinner and less colorful than in previous years.


The sound of whistles pierced the air throughout the night as police urged people to keep moving around the iconic scramble crossing, with photo-taking opportunities not coming easy. Some vehicle traffic was also blocked near the JR Shibuya Station.


Simsek Tortu, 33, a Turkish resident of Tokyo who came to take photos of the Shibuya Halloween for the sixth time, said while the vibe "paled in comparison" to previous years, he was grateful there were fewer people.


"I think (the mayor telling people not to come) is actually a good call. Because only people who are really passionate about dressing up will still come," said Tortu, not clad in costume himself as he was organizing a photowalk for the night for his photography group.


Shibuya Mayor Ken Hasebe amped up his Halloween messaging this year amid fears crowding could escalate to potentially dangerous levels now that restrictions over the novel coronavirus have been lifted.


Over 150 people were killed in a crowd crush that occurred on Oct. 29, 2022, in Seoul's Itaewon entertainment district after tens of thousands gathered to take part in Halloween festivities.


Sabrina Harnois, 24, an American living in Tokyo who came dressed as a gothic witch, said an incident like the one in Itaewon could have happened, recalling how "horribly crowded" Shibuya was in 2019.


"It was hard to walk around, and it did feel dangerous," she said.


Jarod Opperman and Yasemin Kutes, who were on holiday in Japan from the United States, praised the orderliness and feeling of safety as they walked around Shibuya, home to youth culture and one of Tokyo's most bustling neighborhoods.


"You know, people are still having fun. They can be safe and having fun," said Opperman. "It's nice to feel like, especially with the situation in Korea last year, even if it's overdone, that there was preparation made to try and maintain some order."


Still, some felt the unofficial Halloween gathering had become overmanaged.


"There are too many restrictions, so it's spoiled the fun," said a 17-year-old schoolgirl who asked to be referred to as Yuna. Dressed as Playboy bunny with her classmate Rian, the pair agreed it was a shame since "it's only Shibuya where we can do things like this."


In addition to special police officers mobilized to prevent pedestrians from lingering, security guards and city officials patrolled the area to keep close tabs on the crowds through early Wednesday.


Since 2019, the ward has enforced a street drinking ban in areas near JR Shibuya Station during Halloween and the previous weekend. The ordinance took effect this year from last Friday through Tuesday between 6 p.m. to 5 a.m. each night.


Around 35 stores in the area were also asked to refrain from selling alcohol during those hours last Saturday night and on Halloween.


Mamoru Morita, 47, who had with him two pet iguanas and a goat, said that not only were there fewer people compared to last year, "the police officers are noisy."


"I think they should welcome (Halloween) rather than resist it. After all, everyone is coming because they love Shibuya," Morita said.

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@Jackie San

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