Tokyo's famous Shibuya district is bracing for the return of Halloween crowds this weekend, with many revelers expected not to be spooked by the ward's repeated requests to stay away.
Among the measures being taken to dissuade partygoers, a drinking ban on streets around Shibuya Station will take effect from Friday evening through the early hours of Nov. 1, with over 30 stores in the area asked to cease alcohol sales on Saturday and during the evening of Halloween.
"This year, we are making it clear to the world that Shibuya is not a venue for Halloween events," Mayor Ken Hasebe said at a press conference earlier this month. "Please do not come to the Shibuya Station area for Halloween."
Hasebe has amped up the messaging this year amid fears that crowding around the district's iconic scramble crossing and other areas could escalate to potentially dangerous levels now that coronavirus restrictions have been removed.
Many people, including visitors from abroad, are expected to converge in the district for the first Halloween since Japan downgraded the legal status of COVID-19 to the same as seasonal influenza earlier this year.
According to the ward, Shibuya saw over 40,000 visitors on Halloween night in 2019. Although the number plunged in the following years due to the pandemic, there are concerns crowds could top 60,000 due to the removal of restrictions.
"We are extremely concerned that accidents like the fatal tragedy in Seoul's Itaewon last October could happen anytime," said Hasebe.
Over 150 people were killed in the crowd crush that occurred on Oct. 29, 2022, in Seoul's Itaewon entertainment district after tens of thousands gathered to take part in Halloween revelries for the first time since COVID-19 restrictions were eased in South Korea.
Shibuya initially welcomed the celebrations, but the ward has reversed course in recent years following an increase in vandalism and drunken behavior, including the overturning of a small truck in 2018.
About 300 security guards are expected to be deployed from Saturday night through Tuesday, around a 50 percent increase from last year, in addition to around 150 ward officials who will patrol and enforce no-drinking and no-smoking ordinances in the area.