11:45 p.m., Shibuya scramble

It begins with a flutter of anxious energy. Checking watches and phones, and with concerned glances toward the dwindling number of trains as the station clock ruthlessly slices away the minutes overhead. The urgency picks up pace under fluorescent lights. A sudden burst of energy jolts through the crowd of salarymen, late-night diners and fashionable young people — groups say their farewells and the running begins, the slap of sandals and sneakers hitting the pavement, the clatter of high heels.

It’s Friday night in Tokyo and, in the busy Shibuya district, some people are racing home, waiting to be swallowed up by the sleek-bodied trains and ferried off into the night. Others are going in the opposite direction of the trains, heading deeper into the labyrinthine streets and alleys of Shibuya, hunting for a destination to spend the night. As pandemic-era border restrictions evaporate along with memories of requests for club patrons to “talk quietly,” the city’s nightlife is picking back up. With it, there’s a sense of possibility.