It was a bit like having your friends over for a party with your mum telling you to be quiet from the other room.

Whenever it’s time to count down to a new year in Tokyo, people head to Shibuya, where crowds gather in the middle of the famous scramble crossing to chant and cheer and revel in the happiness of having survived one year and been given an untarnished new one, filled with dreams and possibilities and resolutions that are yet to be broken.

So when presented with a second chance to count down to another period of time in the space of one year – and this time not to a new year but to a whole new era – our roving reporter Mr Sato knew what he had to do and where he had to go to taste that shiny feeling of hope again. So he hopped on a train and stepped out at the bright lights of the Shibuya Scramble Crossing.

He walked across the intersection and headed over to the Centre Gai shopping district nearby. As he strolled around in the rain, he could see a sea of umbrellas moving in front of him, as crowds of people appeared to be heading to the station area near the scramble crossing.

The police were making their presence felt as well, as they were there in considerable numbers, keeping an eye on the crowd as they usually do during big events here at New Year’s and Halloween. Mr Sato hoped the countdown to the new era wouldn’t be nearly as hectic as those past events, so he slowly made his way back to the crossing area to see what was happening.

He took a moment, though, to stop and admire the new logo on Shibuya’s iconic 109 building, which was also displaying a “reiwa” era name sign behind it.

Arriving back at the intersection at around 11:30 p.m., Mr Sato found a nice sheltered spot under a tree which gave him a good vantage point of the area. By 11:40 p.m., the number of people here had swelled to the point that you wouldn’t be able to walk through the crowd without bumping into somebody.

Although this wasn’t an official countdown event, for some reason everyone kept looking up at the big screen above Starbucks, expecting some sort of countdown clock or related image to appear. However, at about ten minutes to midnight, the police in the area made a surprise announcement over the speakers. They said: “There will be no countdown!”

▼ And at 11:53 p.m., the screen above Starbucks went black.

Mr Sato, whose eyes had been quivering, anime-like, in gleeful anticipation of the countdown event, found himself quickly disappointed with the way things were panning out. Why hadn’t the police made the announcement earlier to save everyone the trouble of standing in the rain?

He turned around for a moment and pondered whether he should join the crowds that had formed inside the overhead connecting station walkway, which overlooked the intersection.

But he decided that since he was here in the middle of the night in the rain, he might as well make the most of it. Instead of retreating, he stood his ground and then, just moments away from midnight, it happened. The crowd didn’t care if mum had turned the screen off and was in the other room, hinting that they should all stay quiet or go home. They all decided they would do what they had come to do, and the crowd began counting down together, chanting and cheering their way into the new era.

Mr Sato found himself whooping with joy at the end, happy that he’d become a part of this unofficial celebration with strangers. Everyone’s cheers seemed to reverberate off the tall buildings around them, and with everybody happily wishing each other all the best for the new era, Mr Sato was filled with that taste of hope that he’d come looking for.

Photos © SoraNews24

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