On most Halloweens, you can find an electric atmosphere in Shibuya, as thousands of people in creative costumes gather to party. But in this age of COVID, crowded areas and close contact are two of the “Three Cs” that must be avoided, so a creative alternative was needed. This year, there will be a six-day virtual Halloween bash with events and performances, all within a virtual, augmented-reality recreation of Shibuya. What exactly will this look like? Read on to learn more about the event and find out how to join!
What Is “Virtual Shibuya”?
Early in the pandemic, when authorities scrambled to manage the virus and a state of emergency was declared, the normally vivacious Shibuya became very quiet. To maintain the district’s energy and creativity, an alliance of 50 companies and organizations unveiled a “virtual Shibuya,” a full recreation of the area’s cityscape overlaid with special digital content, accessible from desktop, mobile, and virtual-reality devices. This augmented-reality space can serve as an event space, art gallery, and entertainment center, where special effects need not follow the rules of physics.
Its opening event, held in May, was themed on “Ghost in the Shell.” The virtual Shibuya was made to look like the universe from the anime, and there were live performances and celebrity guest appearances. Some 50,000 people attended from the comfort of their homes, moving through the augmented reality in the form of avatars. Since then, the space has also launched the “Netflix Theater,” where a rotating weekly selection of Netflix animes are digitally “screened” on the famous scramble crossing. (The official mayor of virtual Shibuya? Hachiko the Dog, of course!)
Halloween in Shibuya Goes Virtual
Over the past decade, Shibuya has organically evolved into a mecca of Halloween festivities, with thousands descending on the district over the six days of October 26-31 clad in creative costumes. It hasn’t been without drawbacks—to clamp down on rowdiness, outdoor drinking was banned last year over the Halloween period—and this year, the threat of COVID infection adds another worry. By offering a virtual (and free) Halloween bash, the hope is that the revelers will enjoy the festivities from home. (Notice how the official hashtag, #StayVirtual, resembles the #StayHome slogan from the height of the pandemic.)
Performances and Activities
Musical artist Kyary Pamyu Pamyu will begin the festival with a “Mini Live” performance on the opening night. After screenings of episodes from “Ghost in the Shell: SAC_2045” on Tuesday and Wednesday, punk band BiSH will appear on the 29th. The 30th will then feature a talk from virtual YouTuber Mirai Akari and the “first-ever 5G comedy performance” from the comedy duo Wagyu. Musicians Rinne and Nulbarich will headline the 31st. These are merely the main events, and still more acts are set to be announced. These acts are all free.
Perhaps of most interest to readers, though, are the interactive components. In addition to special photo booths, there’s a “trick or treat hunt” throughout the virtual Shibuya, a mystery puzzle featuring Mayor Hachiko, and a costume contest judged by VTuber Mirai Akari with (yet unannounced) prizes.
This is the official site, where you can find the most up-to-date event program.
How to Join
The Virtual Shibuya can be found on the “cluster” augmented-reality platform. While you can make the most of the experience on a VR headset, it also works on cluster’s desktop (Mac and macOS) and mobile (Android and iOS) apps. Log in using Twitter, Facebook, Google, or Apple, and then enter the virtual Shibuya-scape through the link on this page.
Halloween in Shibuya is one of those exhilarating spectacles that Japanophiles throughout the world are dying to experience once. It may have seemed like the coronavirus pushed these plans back indefinitely. But now, not only can you experience Halloween in Shibuya from anywhere in the world, you can also experience the latest in Japanese popular culture for free. And it’s all made possible by the cutting edge of Japanese virtual-reality technology. Don’t miss out on this surreal opportunity!
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The information in this article is accurate at the time of publication.