Volunteers clean up the litter from Tokyo’s Halloween street party

The most disciplined country jus finished hallowean celebration . The Shibuya Halloween celebrations are at a sort of crossroads. Yes, the unofficial street parties are bigger and livelier than ever, with massive crowds congregating around Shibuya Station as partiers come from all across Tokyo to show off their costumes (and drink) all night long.

But on the other hand, the increased incidents of vandalism, violence, and littering are an embarrassing development in ordinarily safe and clean Japan, and are earning the parties negative attention from politicians who are mulling over stricter regulations on Halloween gatherings in the future.

While costumed superheroes are always a popular Halloween costume choice, it’s best to leave responses to vandalism and violence to the police. What volunteers can do, though, is help clean up after the parties are over. So just a couple hours after he’d been part of the Halloween night Shibuya party, our Japanese-language reporter Mr. Sato got up bright and early and headed back to Shibuya Station with an empty trash bag in hand.

Getting off the train at 8 a.m., he figured he’d dive right into picking up litter near the station, making the commute a little more pleasant for everyone on their way to work. But…

…the area around Shibuya Station was remarkably clean. Like, cleaner that it is on a normal weekday morning, let alone after one of the neighborhood’s rowdiest night of the year.

The welcome surprise was thanks to the efforts of other volunteers, who’d actually started working long before Mr. Sato was on the scene. Some of them were even dressed in costumes, suggesting that they’d simply stayed out all night, transitioning from partying to picking up trash at some point.

With the station vicinity already spruced up, Mr. Sato turned his steps towards Center-gai, the shopping street on the far side of the famous Shibuya Scramble intersection.

The Scramble on the night of October 31…
…and the morning of November 1.


The night before, there’d been enough people stuffed into Center-gai to turn the street into a solid mass of standing humanity. During the party, Mr. Sato had needed to go down side alleys to make any forward progress, and along the way he’d seen a number of people tossing empty drink containers and cigarette butts onto the pavement, and he was expecting a lot of them to still be there.

But again, the volunteers who’d already been on the scene had done an amazing job. Sure, there was trash, but it was all wrapped up in garbage bags, stacked into neat piles and awaiting pickup by garbage trucks. Even in front of the restaurant where a fire had broken out, there was no loose litter to be found.

“I don’t think I’ve ever seen Shibuya so litter-free,” thought Mr. Sato. With nowhere else to check, we decided to do a sweep of the alleys that branch off of Center-gai…

…where he only managed to find a single empty bento box that someone had discarded, which he picked up and placed into his trash bag.

As he walked back to Shibuya Station to hop on the train to Shinjuku and clock in at the office, Mr. Sato had a complex mix of emotions. He was still upset by all the littering he’d seen taking place the night before, and embarrassed for the handful of still-drunk partiers who were drifting around Shibuya in the morning. He also couldn’t help feeling sorry for not coming earlier to pitch in with the other volunteers. Still, he was touched to see how many people were willing to spend their time cleaning up the town, even if he hopes that someday they won’t have to.

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