Halloween in Japan is expected to be celebrated in new ways this year, at socially distanced events or online with revelers upping their cosplay game, as attempts are being made to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus.
Amid concerns that the famed Shibuya scramble crossing may become a virus hot spot should tens of thousands of revelers congregate there on Oct. 31 as in the past, ward Mayor Ken Hasebe on Thursday asked people to refrain from doing so this year and attend virtual events instead.
"Please do not come for Halloween this year," Hasebe said at a news conference. "I would like you to refrain from being raucous on the streets and consider other ways to celebrate during the pandemic."
These could include a series of events in a virtual Shibuya, officially recognized by the ward, which will run from next Monday through the end of the month. Halloween lovers can walk around as avatars and show off their costumes, or watch a live show by pop singer Kyary Pamyu Pamyu.
Other cities are switching to online celebrations as well.
Kawasaki, which saw around 120,000 people attend its costume parade last year, has launched an online costume contest on its website. Contestants from around the world can submit videos of themselves wearing their costumes for a grand prix award of ¥500,000 ($4,700).
"Halloween originates from the practice of expelling evil spirits. We want our wish of expelling the coronavirus to be granted by using the possibility of people connecting online from home," said Yohei Yatabe, who manages the project.
Theme parks are also taking various measures to avoid becoming virus hot spots.
Tokyo Disneyland and Tokyo DisneySea have canceled their Halloween events, saying they are "prioritizing the safety and health of visitors and employees."
Universal Studios Japan in Osaka is implementing entry restrictions so visitors naturally spread throughout the park.
Yomiuriland in greater Tokyo, which is offering free entry to those wearing costumes and decorated masks on weekends and holidays until Nov. 1, decided against holding close-contact events.
Worries about the coronavirus are not limited to large event organizers, with a small-scale online survey by a Tokyo-based marriage agency showing deep concern at the individual level.
More than 70% of 1,000 men and women in their 20s and 30s were either "very worried" or "worried" about Halloween celebrations, according to the September survey conducted by En-konkatsu agent.
With events moving online, individuals at home are focusing on decorating their faces to show off on screen.
A Don Quijote discount store in Roppongi said sales of patterned masks and face shields have been brisk as people are making them part of their Halloween costumes.
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