Well here we are at last, on the eve of the long awaited Tokyo Olympics, and Tokyo's citizens are bending over backward to put their best feet forward. Unfortunately, reports J-Cast News (June 24), that contorted position is practically impossible to sustain for any length of time.
One need look no further than the "adult entertainment zone" of Kabukicho, in Shinjuku, to observe what people are doing to unwind from the past 18 months of accrued tension. The area now called Cine City Square (formerly as the Koma Gekijo-mae Hiroba) has deteriorated into a "lawless zone" where people gather in clusters to drink out on the street.
Each evening turns into a game of hide-and-seek, as officials from the nearby Shinjuku Ward office, as part of countermeasures adopted during the state of emergency, march through the drinking area with bullhorns, entreating drinkers to leave the premises and return to their homes.
On June 23, exactly one month before the scheduled opening of the Games, a demonstration in opposition to the Games was held in front of the Tokyo metropolitan government headquarters.
The demonstrators then marched several hundred meters to the entrance of Kabukicho and rather than dispersing, many remained in Cine City Square, where, laughing and carousing, they took selfie photos that they posted on Twitter.
That evening on social media, numerous still photos and videos could be seen using the search term "BLAZE-mae" -- a reference to one of the familiar landmarks in the square -- of young adults drinking and carousing.
One of the videos showed a young man beating a tambourine while seated on the shoulders of two companions, shouting with unrestrained ardor in an unapologetic gesture of defiance to Tokyo Gov Yuriko Koike, who had appealed for people to stay at home.
J-Cast News' writer pointed out that the plaza is one of the district's public thoroughfares, and owing to its designation as a "public" street, people are prohibited from blocking traffic by sitting or lying down; from discarding rubbish; or violations of a similar nature. The police had proactively posted fliers around Cine City Square, urging the public to call the 110 police emergency number and report violators, but to no avail.
J-Cast News met with a spokesperson for the Kabukicho Merchants Promotion Association to discuss the lawless situation around the square.
"In the past," the spokesperson said, "even during the daytime 20 or 30 people living on the street would gravitate there and drink. As the corona pandemic worsened, there were fewer people they could rely upon to give them food handouts, and instead more young people began congregating there. The people who drink on the street tend to be dispersed here and there, so there's no particular spot that stands out. If they are warned by authorities about sitting on the street and drinking, they'll just walk away and return a short time afterwards. So the game of hide-and-seek continues."
"Fencing off the area, such as has been done in front of Takadanobaba Station, might work, but on the west side of the square Tokyu Corporation is presently constructing a new high-rise building," the spokesperson continued. "When it opens at the end of 2022, the building's entrance will face the square, and along with rows of shops, all sorts of events will be held almost daily, so I think by then things will have improved a lot.
"The sweeps conducted by ward officials are not limited just to the square, but we've been receiving reports from patrols of the difficulties they've been encountering. There are places where the patrols return to see that the people to whom they issued warnings haven't left; or if they did leave, then someone else moved in."
The spokesperson denied that fences were being considered to block access to the square.
"Fencing was tried in front of Takadanobaba Station, but only in a small section that protrudes onto the street, so it was easy to do there. Cine City Square, on the other hand, covers a large space, so physically it would be much harder to do.
"So fencing isn't being considered; we expect officials will just continue making the rounds."© Japan Today