National

Shibuya's tourism car gets Sanrio makeover to ward off Halloween chaos

by Daisuke Kikuchi

Staff Writer

In a bid to thwart the more rambunctious revelers who gather in Shibuya Crossing on Halloween night, the green train car and information center in front Shibuya Station has been dressed up to look like Sanrio’s popular character Pom Pom Purin.

The move was taken because the information center, dubbed Aogaeru (the green frog), has recently become a target for graffiti and other vandalism on the fun-fueled night, said Kyoko Hori, spokeswoman for the Shibuya City Tourism Association.

According to Hori, officials are betting that dressing the car up to look like the golden retriever character, celebrating its 20th anniversary this year, will give it enough of a cute factor to offer some protection.

Pom Pom Purin topped the Sanrio Character Ranking list in July, with Hello Kitty coming in fifth.

“I read an article about this in the newspaper and thought it was very cute,” said 28 year-old office worker Miho Inoue, who visited Shibuya on Thursday to see it. “I’ve loved Purin-chan since I was small.”

According to Hori, someone spray-painted the Aogaeru as recently as Aug. 26. She also mentioned another incident in which one of the car’s windows was shattered.

On past Halloweens, fences were set up around the car to protect it from the thousands of revelers that show up at the crossing to celebrate.

This year, the association decided to go a step further by trying a redesign.

“We talked with Sanrio and decided to make it Pom Pom Purin,” Hori said. “We thought that by making it look cute, people would think twice about damaging it.”

The rail car, donated by private railway Tokyu Corp., was built in 1954 and has sat in front of the neighborhood’s famous Hachiko dog statue since 2006. It will sport its new appearance through Nov. 1.

Hori noted that the crowded Shibuya area has become even more chaotic on Halloween nights recently because of all of the congestion, especially at the famous “scramble crossing,” and the massive amount of litter left behind. This is exacerbated by occasional incidents of property damage and violent crime.

Last Halloween, the police arrested at least two men near the station — one for allegedly striking a police officer on the head with an air gun and another on suspicion of stealing a wallet from a woman’s bag.

The year before, a man was arrested for punching a police officer in the face and another for groping a woman.

As a preventative measure, the tourism association plans to hold its own Halloween party in Yoyogi Park on Oct. 31 called Shibuya Halloween Fes.

“We’ve prepared an event for people to join, since in the past, the station area was flooded with people who didn’t know where to go,” said Hori, adding that the event will be free of charge. “Also, by holding an event in Yoyogi Park, it’s easier for us to clean up the area afterwards.”

She said the ward plans to erect Halloween dressing rooms in various locations including the park.

“Our wish is not to stop people” from celebrating Halloween, she said.

“We’re just asking that you maintain good manners and have some fun.”