The Shibuya Center-Gai Patrol: Keeping Shibuya Clean Through Intimidation

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    A week ago, a television program aired about the Shibuya Center-Gai Patrol(SCGP), a non-police group of volunteers that patrols the main streets of Shibuya to keep the area safe and clean.

    Below are a few examples of how the patrol operates:

    Video Clip 1 Summary

    • The patrolman yells at some young people sitting along the side of the street, telling them to stand up because they are being a nuisance.
    • Another patrolman goes after a couple young men who are leaning on a guard rail, telling them what they are doing is dangerous and inappropriate. When the men insist they are doing nothing wrong, the patrolman shouts at them until they leave.
    • The patrolmen force other young people who are sitting or crouching in areas of the street to stand up, yelling at them and using whistles.

    Video Clip 2 Summary

    • The two patrolmen angrily tell a restaurant mascot that he is not allowed to stand in front of his store and wave at customers, apparently because he is being a nuisance to pedestrians.

    Video Clip 3 Summary

    • The patrol targets some foreigners who are smoking in the doorway of a store.

    Video Clip 4 Summary

    • The patrol runs into trouble: 2 men holding bags are refusing to move when told they should not be allowed to stand in the street. The men state that they are doing nothing wrong and there are no signs saying it is illegal to stand in the street. The patrolmen react to their statement with anger, shouting insults at them and demanding that they move. The men do not move, and the patrolmen give up.
    • A reporter interviews the men, asking why they refused to move. The men reply that they are committing no crime, and that they feel the patrolmen are discriminating against them based on their appearance. Does keeping the streets of Shibuya “clean” mean that anyone the patrolmen regard as “dirty” should be intimidated into moving out of sight?


    Safe and clean streets are a nice thing, but all I see in the videos is a group of volunteer bullies verballing abusing young people. It might not be polite to stand in the middle of the street with a large bag, but it seems far worse to have a group of pseudo-police walk around the streets intimidating people into being “polite?”

    I may think that the young men in the last video look shady, but that’s no excuse that would justify the disgustingly belligerent behavior of the patrolmen. If standing in the street had been a crime, the patrolmen could have simply summoned the police when the men refused to move. They did not, so it seems to confirm that the men were not committing a crime. It’s good to see somebody willing to resist the intimidation and rude language employed by Shibuya Center-Gai Patrol members.

    I am not alone in my views of the patrolmen. While searching for information about the SCGP, I came across this 2-channel thread containing criticism of the SCGP’s use of rude language and intimidation. One anonymous poster pointed out that the Shibuya Center-Gai website has a feedback form through which people can voice their complaints with the SCGP’s behavior. Any residents of Japan who don’t like what they see in the above videos should probably let the Shibuya Center-Gai organization know about it.

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