One year on, Elizabeth Beattie joins us to discuss where Itaewon stands after its Halloween disaster, and what its legacy means for celebrations in Japan.
On this episode:
- Halloween’s rise in the 2010s provided Shibuya crossing with plenty of tricks and treats (Mike Sunda, The Japan Times)
- Halloween spooks Shibuya (Matt Alt, Matt Alt’s Pure Invention)
- Calls grow to abolish Japan’s surgery requirement for gender change (Tomoko Otake, The Japan Times)
- Germany set to eclipse Japan as No. 3 economy in 2023, IMF says (Elizabeth Beattie, The Japan Times)
- What South Korea’s frequent protests say about its politics (Choe Sang-hun and Chang W. Lee, The New York Times)
- What went wrong in the South Korean ferry disaster (The New Yorker, YouTube)
Get in touch: Send us feedback at [email protected]. Support the show by rating, reviewing and sharing the episode with a friend if you’ve enjoyed it. For a transcript of the show, visit japantimes.co.jp, and don’t forget to follow us on Twitter!
Transcript note: Deep Dive is made to be listened to, and we recommend this transcript be used as an accompaniment to the episode. This transcript has been generated using a combination of speech recognition software and human transcription, and may contain errors. Please check its accuracy against the episode.
Shaun McKenna 00:08
Welcome to Deep Dive from The Japan Times, I'm Shaun McKenna. Over the past 20 years Halloween has become its own unique thing in Japan, which I believe comes down to cultural traditions and norms. For example, if you have kids, they've probably already celebrated at their school or some neighborhood event put on by the locals. Taking your kids to strangers homes or apartments and demanding candy? Well, that doesn't go over too well in Japan. During the 2010s, however, Japanese businesses realized that there is a lot of money to be made in Halloween. And, before the pandemic, the holiday was bringing in billions of yen. So municipal governments followed the money and positioned themselves as “Halloween friendly.” Shibuya Mayor Ken Hasebe was one of those touting Halloween but this year he's telling everyone to take the party elsewhere, not on the streets of Shibuya, where it's become a bit of a new tradition. One reason he wants people to stay away is safety. And he cites last year's Halloween crush in Seoul that killed 159 people as an example. My colleague, Elizabeth Beattie joins us today to talk about the Itaewon crush a year after it happened and how it has spooked Shibuya’s mayor.
Elizabeth earlier this year, you were in South Korea for holiday. Where did you go?
Elizabeth Beattie 01:29
I stuck to Seoul and it wasn't strictly a holiday because, while I was there, I decided to do some research for some stories at the same time.
Shaun McKenna 01:37
Oh, you gotta watch that work-life balance.
Elizabeth Beattie 01:39
Look who's talking, Shaun. Honestly, Seoul’s a great city, it has always got amazing food, and it wasn't my first time there but it had been a little while. One place I really wanted to revisit was the neighborhood of Itaewon. It had been quite a long time since I was last there and obviously a lot of things have changed in that time.
Shaun McKenna 02:00
Tell us what has changed.
Elizabeth Beattie 02:03
Well, of course many people will have heard of the tragedy that struck Itaewon around this time a year ago, it was Oct. 29, so a year ago this coming Sunday.
News Clip 02:12
We begin in East Asia where South Korea's president has declared a period of national mourning following a crush in the capital Seoul...
Elizabeth Beattie 02:20
And a lot of the press referred to her and still refers to the incident as “the crush.”
News Clip 02:24
The death toll now tops 150 in the crush of people who were out celebrating Halloween...
Elizabeth Beattie 02:30
There were 26 foreign nationals who passed away among that group were two Japanese women — An Kozuchi, who was just 18, from Saitama Prefecture, and Mei Tomikawa, also young, only 26, from Hokkaido. In fact, 80% of those who died that night in Itaewon were in their 30s or younger. There were also victims from Iran, China, the United States and 11 other countries other than South Korea. A reported 100,000 people were in Itaewon that night, and the street where the crush took place is about 45 meters long and 3.2 meters wide at its narrowest point, so that’s 150 feet long and 10 feet wide. It was also reported there was a temporary wall that made it even narrower. And all these people who were out were out to celebrate Halloween.
News Clip 03:20
There was just obviously waves of people coming in. This is like the middle of Itaewon. So waves are coming in from both sides, and more people fell ... and then I lost my friend.
Shaun McKenna 03:32
So you're visiting Itaewon almost a year later. What does the area look like now?
Elizabeth Beattie 03:38
Well, something that really stands out in the area is the fact that there are far more empty buildings, and far more “for rent” signs and spaces post pandemic. Then when you walk down the alleyway itself where the crush occurred, at the base of the incline is a makeshift memorial that's kind of made up of these colorful Post-it notes. They're quite sun-faded, and they say messages like “I still miss you,” “Let's meet in another life,” so quite emotional kinds of things. There's also photos and a few flowers there as well. And while I was standing in the alleyway, making notes for my reporting, little clusters of people were stopping and writing things down or stopping to read the messages.
Shaun McKenna 04:20
That's actually quite sad. Do you get the sense that Itaewon is still stuck in its grief?
Elizabeth Beattie 04:26
It's difficult to tell for people who experienced or witnessed the tragedy that has a bruised their memory of Itaewon, down that alleyway where you have people kind of stopping to remember or adding their own recollections to that memorial wall. It is quite a heavy atmosphere. So it's hard not to overlay a sense of grief to the area, but Itaewon itself has long been a vibrant multicultural neighborhood. Its history goes back a long way, of course, maybe around the 1940s the neighborhood began to kind of get this international reputation because of the nearby U.S. military base, so it would cater to people associated with the base, and that included, at the time, bars and brothels.
Shaun McKenna 05:07
So it wasn't just associated with internationalism, it had a bit of a seedy rep, I'm guessing.
Elizabeth Beattie 05:12
Yeah, and that went through to the 1990s. More recently its viewed as a cosmopolitan place – a place for, say lots of foreign restaurants and services — the Seoul Central Mosque is there. And walking through the streets it feels much more diverse than other parts of the city. It’s also known as one of Seoul’s main LGBTQ districts, with a lot of bars that cater to that community. South Korea is still a pretty conservative place and the people I spoke to for my piece said that Itaewon serves as kind of a “safe space” for them. If you read accounts of what the atmosphere is like there, you’ll hear about gay couples feeling like they’re able to hold hands in public there.
Shaun McKenna 05:51
Right, well that's nice.
Elizabeth Beattie 05:53
Yeah, it plays a really important role for people. There's also a TV show on Netflix called “Itaewon Class,” and that's been praised for its realistic portrayal of the discrimination faced by non-Koreans and the LGBTQ community.
Shaun McKenna 06:08
Interesting. So when I went to Seoul, I really only knew about Hongdae as I was into music, and there was a vibrant indie scene in that area, at least as far as I knew this was a while ago, but I went to a few great shows and bars. I just really enjoyed it, yeah.
Elizabeth Beattie 06:22
Yeah, it's really important to have those areas for culture and community, especially for foreign communities living overseas. I spoke to Jill Dunbar and she's a clinical psychologist at a counseling organization called Adaptable Human Solutions. And she said that Itaewon is important because the people you meet there will often have a similar lived experience to you, as a member of a minority community. And that comes with a great deal of support for those trying to navigate their way through a culture different to their own. So that's where we were at least prior to the pandemic.
Shaun McKenna 06:56
OK, so what happens during the pandemic?
Elizabeth Beattie 06:58
Well, South Korea was praised during the pandemic for its contact-tracing system of tracking COVID-19 cases. However, some of the people I spoke to said that meant you could trace whether or not the person had gone to areas like Itaewon, which would then maybe lead to family members asking why they were going there. And it had this effect of kind of outing young Koreans. These outings started being covered by newsletters connected to the powerful network of Protestant churches and with people sitting at home during the pandemic, those stories really took off and began to create this kind of moral outrage with conservative media decrying Itaewon as a kind of “den of sin.”
Shaun McKenna 07:37
I'm guessing some anti-LGBTQ forces in the community also got involved.
Elizabeth Beattie 07:42
Yes. One person I spoke to for my story, professor Ryan Thoreson, said this hostility is compounded by the fact that South Korea lacks a comprehensive anti-discrimination law. The United Christian Churches of Korea is a large Protestant group made up of some 56,000 churches and it has been credited with halting the passage of such legislation for close to two decades. So that’s a group that wields a lot of political power.
Shaun McKenna 08:08
So how does this all tie back into the crush?
Elizabeth Beattie 08:11
Well, following the crush, there's been attempts by local politicians to try and revitalize Itaewon. However, some members of the LGBTQ community are concerned that conservatives won't try to maintain that diverse and progressive spirit. We've seen some examples already this year of politicians not prioritizing LGBTQ communities. One was Seoul’s Pride Parade was hit by protests this year by church groups. And when organizers tried to get permission to hold their event, the permit was instead given to a Christian youth concert. The organizers of the concert denied any attempt to block the Pride Parade. But the LGBT community spoke about being kind of targeted via bureaucracy. Ahead of the permit incident, the conservative mayor of Seoul said he personally couldn't agree with homosexuality, for example,
Shaun McKenna 09:08
This push and pull between progressives and conservatives seems to be a big issue in South Korea just now. We ran a New York Times article by writer Choe Sang-hun titled “Why South Korea has so many protests, and what that means.” In it, he and photographer Chang W. Lee outline the many protests that are both for and against conservative President Yoon Suk-yeol. What’s interesting, and you get this in the videos that go with the article, is how theatrical the protests are. I’m used to Japan where the ones I’ve seen are often more just marches that go down the street.
Elizabeth Beattie 09:47
Well, one of the activists I spoke to described the way Seoul Pride differs from other Pride events in Asia in regard to that level of hostility and, like you said, the use of very theatrical protests. In fact, they said Japan Pride and Taiwan Pride feel almost subdued because you don't have this immense amount of animosity directed towards attendees. And speaking of politics, this also ties back to Itaewon in that a lot of people were critical of the government's handling of the crush, and blamed President Yoon specifically. At least in the immediate aftermath of the crush, about 7 out of 10 Koreans placed blame on him. One of the people I spoke to for my piece, professor Kyung Moon Hwang, and almost every other person I spoke to, pointed out that South Koreans also linked the way the crush was handled and the way the authorities handled the sinking of the Sewol ferry back in 2014.
Shaun McKenna 10:43
So, to remind our listeners, the sinking of the ferry was on April 16, 2014. That boat was traveling from Incheon to Jeju. And there were 476 passengers on board, 325 of whom were students, and then only 172 survived, including the captain who abandoned the ship.
Elizabeth Beattie 11:04
So there are a lot of parallels here with Itaewon crush, you had a bunch of emergency calls coming in before the actual incident occurred in the case of Itaewon. And then when it came to the Sewol ferry, it took quite a length of time before emergency services really responded to the emergency calls they were receiving as well. There's this real perception that authorities didn't act fast enough. If you listen to the calls, there's a real subdued response, and apparently lacking in urgency from officials, while the boat that these children are around was literally filling up with water. There's a heartbreaking New Yorker documentary about the event and it includes this piece of cellphone footage from inside the ship where these kids are comparing, with a terrifying foresight, the situation they are in to another earlier tragedy. And while the speaker is inside the sinking ship, is instructing passengers to stay where they are and stay calm, one young person says isn't this the kind of situation where they tell you, “Stay put it will be OK. And they run for their lives.” And that's exactly what the captain did in this case. He survived but most of his passengers didn't.
Shaun McKenna 12:12
Right, right. And you were saying as well, like the ferry was a disaster that had a lot of young victims. And from what we were talking about earlier, it seems to be the same case with the Itaewon crush, maybe slightly older, but it's still quite a young demographic, right?
Elizabeth Beattie 12:27
For sure. And I think with both disasters, there was this idea that there were signs beforehand. You know, with Itaewon, specifically, there were those emergency calls that happened before the actual crush incident. People were saying the neighborhood was way too crowded, there needed to be some form of crowd control. And the actual emergency unfolded amid a lot of confusion. I spoke to one person who was there who said you couldn't tell if people were terrified or partying because there wasn't that sense of an official presence. There's also a lot of blame put on the government officials who victims families believe should have been more responsible and should have done more to prevent this.
Shaun McKenna 13:07
Right. Well, thanks very much, Elizabeth. That story on the anniversary of the Itaewon crush is coming out this weekend, yeah?
Elizabeth Beattie 13:13
Yeah, that's right.
Shaun McKenna 13:14
Cool, I look forward to reading it. So keeping all this in mind, all of the parallels, I think I can maybe understand where Shibuya Mayor Ken Hasebe might be coming from and why he's reluctant to allow tens of thousands of partiers into the area of Shibuya Crossing. We'll talk about that after a quick pause.
Shaun McKenna 13:53
That was Shibuya Mayor Ken Hasebe speaking at the Foreign Correspondents Club of Japan, and I'm back with my producer Dave Cortez. Dave, thanks for stepping in. We were actually going to bring in some other guests but they got the flu.
Dave Cortez 14:04
Yeah, so for overseas listeners, the flu is hitting Japan hard. Shaun you had it last week, and I'm back to wearing masks on the train.
Shaun McKenna 14:14
Authorities are citing two causes. No. 1 is that Japan hasn't had an influenza outbreak for a while and people were all masked up during the pandemic which means immunities down, and No. 2 tourists are back and bringing their germs with them.
Dave Cortez 14:28
The tourists are catching no chill in Japan this year.
Shaun Mckenna 14:31
Just the chills.
Dave Cortez 14:33
Exactly. And yeah, a huge upswing in tourism is one of the reasons why Shibuya Mayor Ken Hasebe has become “The Grinch Who Stole Halloween.” No, but seriously, I really do sympathize with the guy. He seems to be trying to tackle a real problem.
Shaun McKenna 14:49
Yeah, the mayor has been reaching out to English-language media as a way to get the message across to English speakers that despite what you've heard, Shibuya doesn't want you doing Halloween on its streets.
Dave Cortez 15:00
Yeah, I think it's a bit more nuanced than that. Right? The mayor doesn't want tens of thousands of people drinking and wandering the streets of Shibuya, which is a place where people live and work, you know?
Shaun McKenna 15:09
Yeah. Gotcha. Before we get into a more general conversation, you've been doing some research on this. So what are the rules he's set out for the Halloween weekend?
Dave Cortez 15:18
OK. See if you can follow this. It comes down to a lot of ordinances. Right. So drinking and smoking on the streets of Shibuya, specifically the area that kind of fans out from the Hajiko exit and takes in Mark City, the 109 building and the area around the Miyashita Park complex, this is restricted starting from Friday, Oct. 27. until Tuesday, Oct. 31, Halloween, between the hours of 6 p.m. and 5 a.m.
Shaun McKenna 15:43
OK, so drinking is restricted. What happens if you get caught?
Dave Cortez 15:47
So the mayor points out that he doesn't have the power of the police. The people that will be patrolling are not all police officers, they wouldn't be trained on how to deal with intoxicated individuals. Likely if they catch you, they will ask you to just move on. However, you can be arrested for being a public nuisance.
Shaun McKenna 16:07
Sounds like the night of 1,000 Karen's. So what makes a public nuisance?
Dave Cortez 16:11
All right. Well, at the FCCJ press conference earlier this month, the mayor outlined this as things like playing music excessively loud, urinating in public and climbing up traffic polls and street signage. So if you're drinking and then doing something illegal, then the police will definitely get involved.
Shaun McKenna 16:28
On that note, what role are the police gonna play?
Dave Cortez 16:32
So, additional police and security guards will be added to the area and the mayor said the number will be up to 50% from last year. They'll also be monitoring traffic, the flow of traffic, right. There's also going to be 300 security guards at 10 separate hubs around the area from Saturday to Tuesday. And actually the mayor has also gone as far as asking businesses to refrain from selling alcohol between those 6 p.m. and 5 a.m. hours we talked about also Saturday to Tuesday. And he's saying that the businesses are cooperating with this request.
Shaun McKenna 17:06
OK. Some headlines have been saying that the mayor is effectively banning Halloween. Is that the case here?
Dave Cortez 17:12
Well, the mayor has been stressing that he isn't trying to stop people from having private Halloween parties or clubs from hosting Halloween themed events. What he wants to tamp down on though is this big mass of people drinking and roaming the streets. Shibuya is a major transportation hub, as you know, Shaun. People who work and live there need to be able to get through the station. But what I think the mayor was seeing were these arrests that occurred for theft and assault in 2018, and then, you know, the peak of attendance, which was clocked around 40,000 people in 2019. And you know, this year we're seeing this phenomenon of overtourism in Japan.
Shaun McKenna 17:45
So over tourism is in reference to the more negative aspects of the high levels of tourists coming to Japan. Right?
Dave Cortez 17:52
Right. You get the crowds in Kyoto. A big story this year was obviously the crowds of Mount Fuji. Officials were saying it was booked and you know, you couldn't climb it. So this is also happening in parts of Tokyo, right, but with Shibuya Halloween, you get it combined with a lot of drinking, and the mayor is just worried about something bad happening. You know, he also noted that the costumes aren't as good anymore ...?
Shaun McKenna 18:14
Oh so he's going as the fashion police this year.
Dave Cortez 18:18
I mean, you know, it sounds like he's being harsh, right? But actually, what he's trying to point out is that it's really just throngs of people, either not wearing a costume at all, or just throwing on a simple mask and clearly just there to drink and party. So it's really just becoming a mess.
Shaun McKenna 18:40
So this current state of affairs has to do with the evolution of Shibuya Halloween, and we're going to use this segment of the show to discuss the backstory. But first, Dave, have you ever experienced Shibuya Halloween?
Dave Cortez 18:52
Yeah, I definitely have. I went there deliberately to party a couple of times in my youth. But kind of post-pandemic, I accidentally wandered through, I think last year. I mean, literally, I mean, you kind of grew up and you have a full time job, and you're just kind of on the weekend doing errands and I was just passing through not realizing it was that party weekend and I went straight through f Sentā-gai (Center Street) specifically, and it was chaos, and I really couldn't get through. And so when you think about the Itaewon crush, I could definitely feel like there's a possibility that that kind of thing could happen there.
Shaun McKenna 19:27
And Sentā-gai is kind of like that road that kind of goes off of the main crossing of Shibuya. So this crossing you see in all the movies and everything like that scramble, Center Road is the street that goes off that. So listeners, Dave is much younger than I am. I think I've steered clear of Shibuya for Halloween since maybe 2013. I just feel like Shibuya Halloween has always seemed more like how North Americans celebrate St. Patrick's Day. You know for that you like kind of wear green and then you drink and the holiday feels like it's all about drinking, though it should be about Irish pride.
Dave Cortez 20:05
So how did we get to this place with Shibuya, then?
Shaun McKenna 20:09
Well, I think actually there are two distinct tracks when it comes to Shibuya Halloween, there's the rise of Shibuya Crossing, or Shibuya ekimae, so ekimae means station front in Japanese. And then there's the rise of Halloween as a holiday in Japan. And I've lived in Japan for like pretty much all of this.
Dave Cortez 20:28
Back in my day.
Shaun McKenna 20:30
In my day, we'd find a JET teacher's apartment in deep Kanagawa and a private party there and we liked it! So I got a lot of great information on the history of Halloween from Matt Alts pure invention newsletter. You can definitely read more there and we can put a link in the show notes. But he points out that something most people know is that Japan”s spooky season is not in October, but in August.
Dave Cortez 20:55
Shaun McKenna 20:57
Yeah, the whole reason we have o-Bon is because it's at a time of year when the worlds of the living and dead are kind of at their closest, and the dead are able to crossover. So all those matsuri or festivals that Japan has are a way to welcome them and then send them off again.
Dave Cortez 21:12
Now that sounds kind of wholesome, actually.
Shaun McKenna 21:15
Yeah, I mean, so the idea of having a spooky holiday in October wasn't a big thing in Japan. And Matt points out that Disneyland kind of takes the tradition on board in the late 1990s, and that creates a kind of cute interpretation of Halloween. So one that elementary school kids can enjoy.
Dave Cortez 21:32
Yeah, I actually noticed that this last weekend, there was a ton of school kids kind of having Halloween themed parties near the stations that they were living around. So there definitely seems to be an apparatus for families to celebrate it somehow.
Shaun McKenna 21:43
Yeah, so trick-or-treating isn't a big thing here. Because, you know, Japanese people might be reluctant to take their kids door to door and demand candy, especially if they don't know their neighbors. So instead, schools or even community groups will step up and organize a more central Halloween party, and it's not always on Oct. 31. Usually, they think they start maybe the second week of October, and they kind of just are whenever the school can kind of accommodate them.
Dave Cortez 22:07
Maybe Shibuya should do that.
Shaun McKenna 22:09
I mean, maybe they do, but for the Shibuya side of the story, Mike Sunda wrote a great piece for The Japan Times at the end of 2019, kind of reviewing Halloween as the holiday of the decade and how it changed Shibuya Crossing. Again, I'll put a link to that piece in the show notes. But Mike talks about the celebrations that happen there after the World Cup victories in 2002. I did happen to go to those and it was crazy with people climbing the traffic poles and celebrating, but like, that's a one-time thing. I think that the authorities can kind of look at that and just say, “Oh, it's just kind of spontaneous, like, showing of celebration.” And in that way, like, Shibuya kind of became Tokyo's answer to Osaka Dotonbori River Bridge.
Dave Cortez 22:52
Yeah, they've been having that kind of issue recently, especially after the Hanshin Tigers have been winning. People were jumping into the river.
Shaun McKenna 22:58
Which is a tradition, right? Yeah, yeah. But the authorities are saying that the river is like a public toilet.
Dave Cortez 23:03
But you know, they do it anyway.
Shaun McKenna 23:07
Yeah. So I think the next piece to this whole puzzle is the foreign element. So I think it was in the 2000s when foreigners started this tradition of dressing up for Halloween and storming the Yamanote Line. And Matt goes into detail about this, how there would be like kind of maybe classifieds in Metropolis kind of advertising this because we didn't have social media. But once this was kind of established as a thing, it got a lot of expected backlash, especially some of it from angry right wingers and the foreign partiers, basically, kind of like disembarked the Yamanote Line and they get off at Shibuya.
Dave Cortez 23:46
Yeah, I remember moving here in 2015, and the first couple Halloweens in Shibuya that I experienced people were literally laying horizontal on the luggage racks in the trains, right. So yeah, totally. The density was extreme. And I did notice a shift away from the station and, like you said, clamoring to be on the Yamanote a or near it, obviously into Sentā-gai.
Shaun McKenna 24:09
Yeah. So I mean, with Shibuya as well, kind of like the foreign community had been gathering there for New Year's Eve celebrations. Maybe thinking that all the screens there might show a countdown, you know, like it kind of looks like Times Square. So they're just associating it like that. But I mean, in Shibuya you have easy access to bars. So if you get bored at the crossing, you can always find something to do. But now it's the 2010s and people are gathering at Shibuya for Halloween, and Hachiko statue is like a place to gather. You kind of see all these people decked out in their costumes, and maybe that's where the actual, kind of like, party is, and people stop moving on to other places and they just stick around the station front.
Dave Cortez 24:55
Yeah, and that totally makes sense. And obviously the 2010s are when we really get into social media. Uh, so it obviously was a lot easier for people to kind of notice, “Hey, there's something going on over there. Let's go party with our costumes in Shibuya.”
Shaun McKenna 25:07
Yeah, I think that's it. I think Shibuya is now filling the role of this central gathering place like a Time Square, or maybe the Champs-Elysees, for holidays and special occasions of celebration. So Mike's piece on Shibuya notes that the added costumes of Halloween made the gathering even more special. So you could kind of lose your identity, you wouldn't have to conform to these rigid rules that tend to dictate Japanese social situations around age and stuff like that. You can just talk to strangers basically. And for this reason, Shibuya Halloween is also known as a bit of a hookup spot.
Dave Cortez 25:43
So it's a little different, right? And I mean, to me, that kind of begs the question, why aren't the authorities concerned about other big events in Tokyo? Right? Why is it just Shibuya? You know, like big matsuri or firework festivals?
Shaun McKenna 25:55
I think that’s a good question. So we spoke to Alex Martin back in July about Japan's matsuri and how they're at risk of disappearing because there aren't any young people to take over the organization of them. I think the key thing there is that there are organizers. There's groups of people from all ages, who, not all of them are getting drunk, and they're making sure things are running smoothly. So if there's an accident, then they have people on hand to take care of those accidents. And there's just this sense of control as opposed to the chaos of Shibuya Halloween. And I think Mayor Hasebe has tried to impose a sense of control on Shibuya Halloween, but what he's seeing now is more just chaos.
Dave Cortez 26:36
Yeah, I think if you've lived in Japan for a while, you should be able to tell the difference between a chaotic spontaneous party and a well organized municipal matsuri. For example, I went to the Kawagoe matsuri a couple of weeks ago. I also went to the Ome matsuri earlier this year, and it was quite obvious that they were planned, heavily planned. People are being trafficked in certain directions. There's trash cans in certain places. When the mikoshi is coming down a very crowded street, it's well taken care of about pushing people out of the way, or kind of warning them. And this is in stark contrast to the kind of madhouse that is Shibuya Halloween, or New Year's for that example. So yeah, you're right. The organization is the big difference.
Shaun McKenna 27:18
And another thing that the mayor was saying at the FCCJ press conference was there's a new added problem of people in cars kind of like driving through the Shibuya Crossing area for Shibuya Halloween. So they're revving their engines, and they're playing music really loudly, and so it's also adding to this kind of noise pollution. Shibuya station isn't a quiet place by any means, but this does not help. I think he kind of is like implying the idea that it just seems to be people showboating, and kind of like, I don't know, Tokyo drifting through the crosswalk. I think the other thing that maybe he's also seeing is that there have been a few incidents of people driving their cars into crowds of people, and this could also be something that happens. I'm not trying to give anybody any ideas, but like, you know, I think as a mayor, he's kind of seeing all of these different types of disasters. And he's kind of saying, well, what if that happens in Shibuya?
Dave Cortez 28:19
So you're saying he's doing his job and taking notes and trying to make the place safe?
Shaun McKenna 28:23
I think so. Ultimately, Shibuya’s purpose is to facilitate traffic, that's foot traffic as well as vehicular traffic. And that is its whole purpose. It has organically evolved to become something of a town square or meeting place. But Halloween overseas isn't a giant swarm. It's usually private costume parties, and even the idea of trick-or-treating involves getting candy and moving on, right?
Dave Cortez 28:48
Oh, for sure. And actually, I think if anything, this kind of shows the desire for a mass gathering where you can celebrate with other people. You know, even St. Patrick's Day, the most well known mass gatherings usually center on a parade. And the Shibuya Mayor said that they tried floating the idea of a Halloween parade that would stretch through Shibuya, Shinjuku and Ikebukuro.
Shaun McKenna 29:07
Yeah, I think, also, that's why hanami are so popular, right? It's a massive communal celebration. And in the meantime, Itaewon I think simply confirmed Mayor Hasebe’s own fears about what could happen in Shibuya, down Sentā-gai. He's seen the warning signs and he doesn't want to risk a major tragedy.
Dave Cortez 29:25
Well, Shaun, you're not being a fuddy duddy and asking people not to celebrate Halloween, right?
Shaun McKenna 29:34
I become the Karen. No, I think that having listened to Elizabeth talk about Itaewon earlier, I understand that there were signs missed. And you know, no one wants a repeat of something like that. I think also, at the same time, Mayor Hasebe’s challenge is actually deciding what Shibuya can do to satisfy this kind of need for some kind of communal celebration. And I think he's kind of got some ideas like the idea of the parade, which would involve kind of the cooperation of the other different wards in Tokyo, not just Shibuya. I guess we'll see if we can come up with something for the future. I mean, in the meantime, Shibuya, it’s not like it's any less fun.
Dave Cortez 30:15
That's true. The party still rages on, obviously, every weekend ad nauseam. So on that note, shall we wrap things up?
Shaun McKenna 30:22
Sure, Dave. Thanks for joining me on Deep Dive.
Dave Cortez 30:25
Shaun McKenna 30:31
My thanks again to Elizabeth Beattie and Dave Cortez for joining me on the show. We'll put links to the resources we cited in the show notes. Elsewhere in the news, the Supreme Court on Wednesday ruled as “unconstitutional” a clause in domestic law that requires trangender individuals to undergo sterilization surgery to change their assigned-at-birth gender in their family registry. The court made its decision after a case was filed by a transgender woman who has not undergone the surgery. Advocates hope the decision will pave the way for a legal revision allowing transgender individuals to change their legal gender without having surgery, a move that would put Japan in line with international standards. In the leadup to the decision, my colleague Tomoko Otake wrote about the history of Japan’s sterilization laws and spoke to one person who underwent surgery and now wonders if he had to. And the International Monetary Fund projects that Germany will overtake Japan in terms of nominal gross domestic product by the end of the year, making Germany the third largest economy in the world and Japan the fourth. Japan held the No. 2 spot after the United States until 2010 when it was overtaken by China. The yen’s steady depreciation, which once again hit ¥150 to the American dollar for the second time this year on Monday, is seen as partly to blame for the slide in position. Deep Dive from The Japan Times is produced by Dave Cortez. Our outgoing theme is by Oscar Boyd, and the opening theme is by LLLL. I’m Shaun McKenna, podtsukaresama.