New Tokyo shopping-area rules pose curbs on street performers

by Natsuko Fukue

The Tokyo Metropolitan Government is adopting a nonbinding — but potentially controversial — guideline intended to increase safety and security in shopping areas.

The guideline, to be enacted Wednesday, calls on shop owners to better educate their employees on crime prevention and for shopping arcades to set up security cameras. It imposes no penalties for noncompliance.

But a provision that asks people to “refrain from making street performances that could disturb public order” is alarming some.

“It doesn’t mean people should stop putting on performances,” said an official of the metropolitan government’s Division of Youth Affairs and Public Safety, adding that it is up to shop owners and residents, not the government, to decide what acts or performances are disruptive.

The street-performance clause was added following complaints that female performers in Akihabara exposed their underwear, the official said, adding that calls for more public order in shopping areas increased after a stabbing spree in Akihabara last July that left seven dead and 10 injured.

Although the guideline has no teeth, it could put a stop to street performances and demonstrations, worries Makoto Kawazoe, secretary general of the Tokyo Young Contingent Workers Union, which has organized a number of street demonstrations in the capital.

“There are laws that regulate noise and control traffic already. Why more regulations?” he asked.

Naoko Shimizu, chairwoman of Part-timer, Arbeiter, Freeter & Foreign Workers and an organizer of a failed “tour” to view Prime Minister Taro Aso’s home in Shibuya Ward last October, is also worried that street demonstrations might be restricted.