Halloween 2019 in Shibuya: New Rules After 2018 Incident

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  • by Zoria Petkoska

    The spontaneous Halloween bash that has been going on annually for several days around October 31st in Shibuya might never be the same again. The street party is a Tokyo legend, being free in every sense of the word… until now.

    What happened in Shibuya Halloween 2018?

    In 2018, according to the Tokyo police, more than 300,000 people flocked to Shibuya, both Japanese and foreigners, costume-wearers or pedestrian spectators, and many of them with a drink in hand. This has been a common sight since the 2000s, the number of visitors and the popularity only increasing, despite the insane crowds. Most Tokyoites love the event that brings out the most creative side of people in a city already known for cosplay. The Shibuya Halloween revelries have been predominantly safe, and even parents with children have visited the area in the afternoon or early evening before the street party gets too crowded. However, no party of that magnitude is free of consequences like garbage, intoxication, harassment etc. While these incidents were not rampant, the 2018 party seems to have been the straw the broke the camel’s back.

    Although in 2016 the local authorities decided to close Shibuya crossing for several hours to allow for more space, they did not do the same the following years. This resulted in such crowds in 2018, that people were unable to move through the streets. Think of the morning rush hour trains in Tokyo, but add alcohol in the mix. In this recipe for disaster, the night turned ugly, with the Tokyo police arresting about a dozen people for various behaviours like groping, upskirt photography, assault etc. In the early hours of October 28th 2018, a group of revelers toppled over a small truck for no apparent reason, an incident that was the most widely reported on domestic and foreign media.

    The morning after, many volunteers showed up to clean up the area. Many of them said that it’s because they want the Shibuya Halloween tradition to go on, so they wanted to minimize the damage. Some, on the other hand, claimed they were not fans of Halloween, but either joined the clean up because they live in the area, or just wanted to do something to help their fellow Tokyoites.

    In this aftertaste of both negative and positive news related to the Shibuya Halloween party, the local authorities and Shibuya Ward mayor Ken Hasebe vowed to impose stricter measures in the future. In a statement issued through the ward’s official website, the mayor says, among other things, “…These people have no love or respect for the Shibuya neighborhood.”

    The New Rules for Shibuya Halloween

    In the wake of the post-Halloween media frenzy and after a lot of deliberation, the Shibuya Ward decided to ban public drinking in Shibuya on several days around Halloween as means of curbing potential damage and criminal activity.

    The ban on public drinking will be in effect not only on Halloween, but also around the New Year holidays when Shibuya also becomes an impromptu party site. Public drinking in Shibuya is from now officially banned on the following dates: October 25, 26, 27, 31, November 1, December 31 and January 1. The mayor’s office states that they might add other days to this ban if it becomes necessary.

    Here’s the official ordinance on the ward’s website. https://www.city.shibuya.tokyo.jp/reiki_int/reiki_honbun/g114RG00000845.html#e000000061

    Roads, parks, plazas and other public places within the area specified by the ward rules within the area surrounding Shibuya Station are all under this drinking ban.

    The ward has the support from business owners and some of them have also decided to close early on the days of the Halloween happenings to avoid trouble and dealing with crowds.

    In addition to the already illegal activities, climbing lampposts, rooftops and other places is also banned after the 2018 incidents.

    In Anticipation of Halloween 2019

    There are mixed reactions to these new rules, from support, reluctant acceptance and understanding, to disappointment and anger. Some commenters on social media are unhappy that the local government decided to go the route of prohibition, as opposed to improvement and management. They say more streets should be closed for cars during festivities like Halloween to help with congestion, as well as providing bigger garbage cans, among other suggestions.

    However, it’s very difficult to defend the destructive behavior documented in 2018, although it was an exception and not the norm. One of the reasons why volunteers showed up to clean Shibuya streets in 2018 was to avoid stricter rules or a total ban on all Halloween activities, as the authorities have been urging people to behave better even before last year’s incident. There are now calls for people to be on their best possible behavior in 2019, as no one wants to see the rules get stricter just because of a few bad eggs among the crowd.

    Other Halloween Events

    If you want to avoid Shibuya for Halloween for any reason, there are many other exciting Halloween parades in Tokyo and the vicinity, as well as smaller costume parties and themed food and drinks almost everywhere.

    Kawasaki Halloween has been attracting a lot of attention, especially after the costumes of art students (in the photo above) went internationally viral last year. This year it is scheduled for October 27, starting in the afternoon and going on until well into the night.

    If you want something closer than Kawasaki, Ikebukuro will also have a street party and parade for Halloween, planned for the weekend of October 26-27, 2019. Go to their official website for more details.

    Many neighbourhoods, like Omotesando and Kichijoji, will have smaller daytime events for Halloween, geared more towards children. On the other hand, many bars and night clubs will have Halloween themed parties and costume contests, so you can give that a try too. And any convenience store or department store you enter during October is bound to have at least Halloween themed foods and drinks, hyping up the atmosphere as October 31st draws nearer.

    Whatever you do, wherever you decide to go, remember to have fun and no turning over cars!

    *Featured Image: hirotarodesu/