When gauging appropriateness in a foreign land, using a drunken mob as your baseline is usually a bad idea.

Volunteers this year were extremely quick to clean up Tokyo’s Shibuya neighborhood after its annual Halloween street parties, with hardly a speck of leftover trash to be found by the afternoon of November 1. However, the Tokyo Metropolitan Police are still dealing with their backlog of Shibuya Halloween-related work.

Shibuya has always been, by Tokyo standards, a comparatively rowdy place, and especially so on Halloween and the weekend ahead of October 31. But this year was the worst yet, and in the early morning hours of October 28, a group of partiers decided the festive thing to do was flip over this truck.


Videos of the truck-flipping incident quickly spread through social media, becoming a symbol of the inconsiderate lawlessness that’s increasingly characterizing Shibuya’s Halloween parties. Earlier this week, the police arrested four Japanese men (all of whom had no prior connection) who were involved in the truck-flipping, and as part of their ongoing investigation, they’re also looking at an additional 11 other suspects who may be facing criminal charges.

At least one of the suspects is a foreign national (multiple non-Japanese men can be seen overturning the truck in the above video), and according to public news service NHK, he’s claiming surprise that law enforcement was bothered by the incident, saying:

“I’d heard that Halloween in Japan is crazy, and that every year people do things like this. I thought I wouldn’t get hauled in even if I got drunk and went crazy in Shibuya.”

Perhaps a little clarification is in order here. Yes, Shibuya does have massive Halloween street parties every year (or at least it’s been having them for the last few years), Yes, as with many festive gatherings in Japan, alcohol flows throughout the celebration. And yes, Japan is more accepting of getting boozed up than just about any place on the planet.

However, there’s an important line that drinkers in Japan are expected to maintain. If you get drunk and cause problems for yourself, most people will just shrug their shoulders and not give you any additional grief for it. Show up for work with a hangover or spill beer on yourself (because it was your sixth beer of the night)? Most people will shrug their shoulders and think “Eh, I’ve been there before too.”

▼ How nostalgic.

But on the other hand, when your drunken hijinks cause problems for other people, Japanese society becomes much less accepting. That’s reflected in the fact that while public intoxication is common in Japan, alcohol-fueled vandalism and drunken brawls are extremely rare. They’re over the line of what most people, and especially police officers, are willing to overlook.

At the moment, the foreign suspect is yet to be formally arrested, but the incident brings to mind the pair of teenaged Australian vandals who the police picked up in Tokyo earlier this year, also in Shibuya. Upon their arrest, they told the police “We saw graffiti in other parts of the neighborhood, so we thought it was OK to do that in Shibuya,” but their excuse didn’t keep the Tokyo metro cops from arresting both of them.

To wrap things up, it’s important to remember that despite Japan’s incredibly low crime rates, there are still people here who break the law, so blindly assuming you’ll be OK as long as you break them in the same way as some Japanese people do is going to get you in trouble. Sure, when traveling or living overseas “When in Rome, do as the Romans do” is usually a pretty sound policy, it’s important to convert that to “When in Tokyo, do as the law-abiding Tokyoites do.”

Sources: Livedoor News via Jin, NHK News Web
Insert image: Pakutaso

Follow Casey on Twitter, where he hopes someone caught this article’s Valkyrie Profile reference.