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Akiba's Pedestrian Paradise Returns with Record 100,000

posted on by Egan Loo
Tokyo's otaku district cordons part of street for foot traffic with new rules

After two years and seven months, "Pedestrian Paradise" — the tradition of zoning the main street of Tokyo's Akihabara shopping district as pedestrian-only — returned on Sunday with a record crowd of about 100,000. Police, 50 surveillance cameras, and about 230 local citizens kept watch as a 570-meter (about 1,900-foot) stretch of Chūō Dōri was cordoned off to foot traffic only.

Authorities posted the following new rules for "Pedestrian Paradise":

1. No selling of items (including accessories, CDs, food, or drinks)
2. No performances (including live street concerts, dancing, or photograph sessions)
3. No bicycling (as well as riding on skateboards, roller skates, or similar items)
4. No handing out tissue or flyers (as well as surveys)

Ironically, the authorities publicized the new rules by distributing flyers. (In Japan, businesses also traditionally promote themselves by handing out pocket-sized packets of tissue with advertising on the back.)

Barring changes, "Pedestrian Paradise" will continue every Sunday from 1:00 to 5:00 p.m. until March. From April to June, the hours will be extended from 1:00 to 6:00 p.m. Japan does not observe daylight saving time, so these hours roughly coincide with the hours of afternoon daylight. The authorities will evaluate whether to continue "Pedestrian Paradise" after June 26 if no new incidents take place before then.

The weekly "Pedestrian Paradise" tradition ended in the wake of the hit-and-run and stabbings that resulted in the deaths of seven people in 2008. The incident happened at around 12:35 p.m. on June 8, 2008. Hiroshi Yuasa (a survivor of the incident) and others held a quiet memorial before the return of "Pedestrian Paradise" on Sunday.

A plan to restore the tradition last May was announced but did not come to fruition until now. Before the 2008 incident, "Pedestrian Paradise" covered a 800-meter (2,600-foot) stretch of Chūō-Dōri, but the area is now 230 meters (750 feet) shorter. Akihabara, or "Akiba," serves as a major shopping district for anime, manga, and game goods, as well as electronics.

TV Asahi, TBS, Tokyo MX, and Tokyo Kanko Guide posted the following video reports:

Sources: Yomiuri Shimbun, Otaku2, Sports Hochi

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