All About Japan

Cleaning Shibuya After Halloween 2014

Halloween Shibuya

In 2014, Tokyo’s Shibuya neighborhood made a major push to establish itself as the place to celebrate Halloween in Japan’s capital. Things got off to a pretty low-key but still impressively creative start with a costume contest on one of the local train lines, but that was nothing compared to how jumping Shibuya was on the night of October 31.

Unfortunately, when you funnel that many people into one place, some of them are going to exhibit some pretty poor manners, as evidenced by the mounds of litter some revelers left behind. In response, volunteers sprang into action cleaning up the trash, but instead of a pat on the back for their hard work, some Twitter users decided to take them to task for what they felt was a shameless play for attention.

2014 seems to have marked a sort of tipping point, where Japan finally celebrated Halloween in large enough numbers to make it more than just a tiny niche event. Adding to the atmosphere was the fact that October 31 fell on a Friday, which also just happened to be the start of a three-day weekend in Japan.

The sea of humanity overflowed the plaza in front of Shibuya Station, spilling over and across the neighborhood’s famous Scramble Intersection. Over 200 police officers were on hand to make sure things didn’t get out of control, and while the night ended with no major injuries or violence, Tokyo’s finest didn’t do as thorough a job of stopping litterbugs, though.

In a happy twist, though, when the sun came up it shone on not just piles of thoughtless party leftovers, but also on groups of volunteers picking them up. Shibuya is one of Tokyo’s most popular shopping and dining destinations, and the volunteers had it looking presentable again for the non-costumed Saturday afternoon crowds.

“I just got done picking up trash in Shibuya,” tweeted one of the volunteers, along with pictures of his group and the trash-strewn streets. “Going a little crazy is fine, but throwing this much litter around is out of line. There was even more than we’d imagined. Some people were still in costume, and if they saw us picking up trash, I hope it made them think a little. We’ll be out again at the next big event.”

As volunteers, obviously no one was expecting a reward or compensation for their work. So it must have come as a shock to the several volunteers who shared their trash-collecting experiences through social media to come under attack through those same channels for their conscientious efforts.

Just like when Japanese fans at the 2014 World Cup were criticized by some for picking up after themselves, it seems no good deed goes unpunished, or at least un-complained about. The seesawing series of faith-in-humanity-destroying-and-restoring events that had now gone from mass littering to helpful volunteer work to accusations of hypocrisy wasn’t quite done yet, though. After the first wave of whining about the volunteers spread, other Japanese Twitter users came to their defense.

So to everyone who put trash into trash bins, whether it was yours or someone else’s, we’d like to say thank you. And to everyone who didn’t, how about next Halloween, instead of going out to celebrate, you just have a party at home, where you can surround yourself with as much filthy trash as you did everyone else in Shibuya?

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