Shibuya has been trumpeting its success in driving out adherents of the various youth subcultures it largely spawned, with herds of gyaru, ganguro, yamanba and other undesirables now a rarity on its fair streets.
Central Shibuya’s retail promotion association had become concerned at Shibuya’s reputation as a “scary town” (an accurate characterisation by central Tokyo standards, though a massive exaggeration by those of practically anywhere else), and resolved to do something about it by driving out the young people.
From 2003 onwards, they instituted street patrols of major shopping areas near Shibuya station, with the intent of driving out the massed groups of gyaru and other fashion tribes who once milled about in these areas.
According to the brave souls who undertook the gruelling task of telling young girls to get lost if they weren’t there to shop, after some ten years of this their numbers have dwindled from dozens of gyaruzu occupying the sides of the main thoroughfares, engaged in such anti-social practices as sitting, dancing and talking, to less than 10 at typical times.
Whether their efforts had any legal force is not clear, although it is hard to imagine Japanese disobeying instructions from anyone wearing an armband and a uniform.
Some have lamented the measures as “potentially causing the decline of a vibrant source of street culture,” although as they do not own any Shibuya department stores their opinions carry no weight.
Similar efforts to reduce the numbers of central Tokyo’s highly visible and highly pungent homeless population seem to have enjoyed more limited success, and unfortunately it will likely take more than a few old men in uniforms to do anything about Shibuya’s architecture.
The valiant efforts of the patrol in action, their main and only recourse to correcting the evils of youth, smokers, and of course people leaning on railings or stood with a suitcase at their feet appearing to be bad language and shouting: