Tight security was in place in Tokyo's vibrant Shibuya district on Saturday, just days before Halloween, with the famous Hachiko dog statue covered with a white curtain bearing the message that the area is "not a venue" for events.
On streets near Shibuya Station, symbolized by the Akita dog statue, police officers were on alert in anticipation of a surge in Halloween crowds, while young people, whose concerns about COVID-19 have eased, were seen donning various costumes.
This year's Halloween season comes as Shibuya Mayor Ken Hasebe has implored people to stay away from the popular district during the festive occasion that usually attracts large crowds of revelers, citing safety concerns.
On Sunday, meanwhile, South Korea will mark the one-year anniversary of the crowd crush that killed more than 150 people in Seoul's Itaewon entertainment district after tens of thousands gathered to take part in Halloween celebrations.
Hasebe has amped up the messaging amid mounting fears that crowding around Shibuya's iconic scramble crossing near the station and other areas could escalate to potentially dangerous levels now that novel coronavirus restrictions have been removed.
At the diagonal crosswalk on Saturday, special police officers, dubbed "DJ police," were mobilized to guide pedestrians, providing instructions in both Japanese and English.
In an attempt to prevent young people and foreign visitors from engaging in vandalism and drunken behavior, convenience stores and supermarkets near the station have been asked by Shibuya Ward to suspend alcohol sales during the Halloween season.
The area surrounding the white curtain concealing the black statue of Hachiko, who is also well-known abroad for having inspired a U.S. film in 2009, was bustling with young people meeting up with their friends and foreign travelers.
Hidekazu Joda, a 35-year-old worker from Saitama Prefecture near Tokyo, said while wearing a zombie mask and prisoner costume, "It is unfortunate that people dressing up leave a bad impression due to poor etiquette."
A 25-year-old female company employee, who visited the Hachiko statue with her colleague from Tochigi Prefecture, north of Tokyo in the Kanto region, said Shibuya Ward should have taken measures with more consideration for tourists.
The loyal dog won a place in the nation's heart in the 1920s for having shown up at Shibuya Station to await its deceased master's return from work every day for nine years. The U.S. film "Hachi: A Dog's Tale," starring Richard Gere, was released around the world.