Every year, without fail, thousands of people flock to Tokyo’s Shibuya district in creative costumes to celebrate Halloween. This year however, the streets of the trendy neighborhood will not see its usual crowds of rambunctious partygoers. In a bid to prevent the spread of COVID-19, the local government has called on people to avoid gathering at the iconic area on the week of Oct. 31. Instead of the streets, the party will now be held online with a virtual Halloween site launched by Shibuya 5G and prepared by the ward’s government officials. The site went live on Monday and will run until Halloween, on Saturday.
Users can experience a virtual Shibuya decked out with floating jack-o’-lanterns and fluttering bats. The site also displays a timetable of special events, including performances by Japanese rock musical group Bish and comedy duo Wagyu.
Other activities include a virtual trick-or-treat hunt, which will have users search for characters hidden around virtual Shibuya. In another mystery-solving game, players have to find the hidden door to the mayor’s office from clues planted around the online world.
An opening ceremony was planned for Monday but it was cancelled, following a tech malfunction, reportedly brought by the large number of people trying to access the site.
However, Shibuya 5G announced that it has been rescheduled to Wednesday and will include the performance by singer Kyaru Pamyu Pamyu, aka “the queen of kawaii,” as originally planned.
Users can access the site from any device, anywhere around the world, but will need to download the Cluster app to participate in the events.
Of course, it’s impossible to compare a virtual party with an actual one, especially when Halloween celebrations in Shibuya have gotten more packed in recent years. There have been reports of vandalism and even vehicles being tipped. The local government has had enough of the drunken mayhem, so much so that they declared a ban on public alcohol consumption in marked out areas of the district last year.
As the pandemic wears on, Halloween isn’t the only holiday affected. Shibuya has also cancelled the New Year’s Eve countdown that draws as many as 100,000 people annually.
As of posting, Japan has had a total of 98,436 COVID-19 cases with 1,727 deaths.