TOKYO – As Japan anticipates its first Halloween without COVID-19 restrictions, Shibuya City is urging both local and foreign tourists to avoid celebrating near the station.
Shibuya expects a surge in attendance this year, attributed to a sharp increase in international visitors to the country.
Expressing “extreme concern,” Hasebe Ken, the mayor of the city, cautioned against potential accidents, citing the tragic incident in Seoul’s Itaewon district in October last year, where more than 150 lives were lost.
“Shibuya is not a venue for Halloween events. Please do not come to the Shibuya Station area for Halloween,” he stated during a press conference at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Japan (FCCJ) on Oct. 5.
Street drinking around the station will be prohibited from 6:00 p.m. to 5:00 a.m. between Oct. 27 and 31.
Hasebe emphasized the city’s preparedness to prevent a fatal crowd crush.
“Yes, we are prepared. We are coordinating with the police, fire department, and medical agencies to station officers strategically in the most risky areas,” he informed the Filipino-Japanese Journal (FJJ).
He highlighted the risk in Center-Gai, stating, “The streets narrow towards the end, making it prone to crowd-triggered accidents. Officials from the police, fire department, and medical staff will be positioned there to respond promptly. Our primary goal is accident prevention.”
To ensure safety, Shibuya will deploy approximately 300 security guards and 150 city officials.
Francis William Cagayat, 34, from Isesaki-shi, Gunma-ken, expressed disappointment, saying, “For someone who always anticipates Halloween in Shibuya, there’s a disappointment since we haven’t experienced the old Halloween vibe since the pandemic began.”
However, he also believed that gathering is acceptable but with a limitation on the number of people.
“We have to consider that what happened in Itaewon might also happen in Shibuya if we won’t have extra precautions,” he shared with FJJ.
Shibuya Station’s vicinity is typically thronged with tourists during Halloween, making movement nearly impossible. - Florenda Corpuz