Halloween visitors urged to avoid famous Tokyo destination

Authorities are concerned that big crowds could lead to disaster.


The mayor of Tokyo’s busy Shibuya shopping and entertainment district is asking Halloween celebrants not to visit.

He fears that a large number of partygoers following the COVID-19 pandemic could cause a disaster similar to last year’s fatal crowd surge in South Korea’s capital city. 

“This year, we are making it clear to the world that Shibuya is not a venue for Halloween events,” Shibuya city Mayor Ken Hasebe said at a news conference Thursday. 

“Please, do not come to the Shibuya station area for Halloween.”

Hasebe said he understands that Halloween is a fun celebration around the world, but noted that a crowd crush like the one that killed about 160 people celebrating Halloween last year in Seoul’s Itaewon district could happen in Shibuya.

“A fatal accident like Itaewon can happen here any time,” he said.

Why is Halloween a worry for officials in Shibuya?

Shibuya’s famed intersection by its train station is nicknamed “scramble crossing” for its large number of pedestrians. It has become a popular destination for residents and tourists on Halloween, drawing large crowds of young people in costumes every year.

The number decreased during the pandemic, but Shibuya’s streets were packed again on Halloween last year. City authorities fear this year’s turnout could be worse, Hasebe said.

“We have a strong sense of crisis that we may not be able to ensure the safety and security of residents and visitors,” he said.

Shibuya is significantly beefing up the number of security guards and officials to remind people about a city ordinance banning alcohol consumption near the station between 27 October and 31 October.

During the period, traffic restrictions will also be in place in the night and early morning hours, Shibuya city said.

Is overtourism a problem?

This year is the first Halloween since Japan fully lifted its COVID-19 border restrictions. The return of international visitors has further boosted concerns about overcrowding in Shibuya during the event. 

In August, around 2.2 million people visited Japan according to the country’s National Tourism Organisation. Visitor numbers are almost back to what they were pre-pandemic. 

China also lifted its three-year ban on group tours to Japan last month which is expected to result in a spike in tourist numbers

There could be crowds of up to 60,000 people if nothing has been done, Hasebe said. 

“With no measures taken, the crowds will be incomparably larger versus last year,” he added.  

“And we fear that this could possibly lead to a sharp increase in congestion-related accidents and incidents.”

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