Photo/Illutration Revelers celebrate at the New Year's Eve and new year celebration event at the famed scramble crossing in Tokyo’s Shibuya Ward on Jan. 1, 2019. (Saki Rin)

Although Japan is nearing a sense of pre-pandemic normalcy with border controls eased, Tokyo’s Shibuya Ward has decided to cancel its New Year’s Eve countdown celebration this year for the third year in a row.

The hugely popular event around Shibuya Station attracts massive crowds and has included events featuring celebrities and showbiz personalities.

However, while restrictions on large-scale events are gradually easing, “due to the nature of this event, we can’t avoid overcrowding,” said the executive committee of the Shibuya New Year’s Eve celebration.

A worker at a local shopping street said, “I’m sad because the event had been a year-end tradition before the pandemic. But the infection risk is still significantly high because of how many people crowd around here.”

The executive committee--comprising the ward government, shop owners from a local shopping street and other entities--started hosting the event in 2016 from late at night on New Year’s Eve to the early morning hours. The event was held four years in a row.

The annual event attracts more than 100,000 revelers. During the countdown, traffic is restricted to pedestrians in areas near the station, such as the famed scramble crossing and the Dogenzaka district.

The event was canceled in 2020 and 2021 to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus.

The government currently does not limit the number of people who can participate in large-scale outdoor events as long as they can maintain enough distance not to touch one another and the events are not too loud.

Organizers must also submit an infection-prevention safety plan to the local government.

However, the executive committee decided in September that it would cancel the countdown event.